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MARSDEN CENTENARY

. No. 11. When the party reached Sydney they wore met by bad news. The story of tho massacre of the Boyd was fresh, and the impression of the dangerous character of tho New Zealand natives had just been deepened. Tho authorities in New South Wales ref vised to allow; the expedition to proceed in -rho meantime. The consequence was an exasperating delay of three years. But Marsdon never hesitated or wavered in his resolution to carry out his, scheme. In the end ho purchased a brig—tho Active, a small croft of 110 tons burden —and fitted her but at his own expense. All preparations made, tho mission partv set sail in the month of November, 1814. Tho company included, besides Marsdon, Hall, lung, and Kendall, with'their wives and children, John Nicholas (who declared that he went from motives of curiosity and personal friendship for Marsden)', Ruatara the faithful, and Te Hongi the rascal. On tho 17th of December they touched at the North Cape to get a supply of fodder for tho cattlo they had on board, and three days later they anchored at Te Ngaerc, near Whangaroa. 'Jliis was the scene of the Bovd massacre, and this was the place Marsden chose for making his first overtures of friendship to the Maoris. He deemed it safest to leave the women and children on the brig while ho and the .men went ashore. Among the fiist to meet him was Tara, the ringleader in the Boyd affair. Marsden greeted him with the utmost cordiality. Here was no expedition seeking vengeance, but an expedition with quite other purposes, at heart. Tho Maoris were won uy the confidence reposed In them. A groat korero was held. The tribes camo from far andl neai ; the talk lasted into the night. Ma- , ™ and Nicholas resolved to spend the night ashore. They slept upon the ground among tho Native-;, alone and unarmed. Tho murderer Tara lay next to them. Marsden has left us a vivid impression of the scene:

Around us, he writes, were innumerable s nears, stuck hpright m the ground, and groups of Natives were lying about in all directions, like a flock of sheep upon the grass, as there were, neither tents nor huts to coyer them. 1 viewed our present situation with sensations and feelings I cannot express, surrounded by cannibals who had massacred and devoured my countrymen. I wondered much at the mysteries of Providence and how these things could be. Never did I behold the blessed advantages of civilisation in a more grateful light than now. Next morning the brig weighed anchor and sailed for Whangaroa North Head. The Natives took counsel together and determined to welcome the newcomers. There was war between the tribes, but they agreed to suspend the strife in honor of the white men. When, therefore, on Christinas _ Eve, the Active reached her destination, it was to be welcomed with every expression of native hospitality. danced, boats and canoes assisted in the process of disembarkation,' great excitement reigned. Christmas Bay was a Sunday. All Saturday was spent in preparations for keeping it worthily, lluatara and his friends fenced in half an acre of ground and made ready a sort of amphitheatre for the Christmas service. An old canoe was pressed to do duty for a pulpit, and seats for the women and children were arranged with various contrivances.

On Christmas Day not a soul remained on board the Active save tho captain and one sailor. The women and children went ashore with the men. Tho white ladies immediately began to make friends with tho wives and 'daughters of tho swarthy chiefs. They discussed each other’s clothes and babies, after the . manner of women tho world over, and soon wero on tho best of forms. Some of the Maori dames wore dresses which had come from Sydney; but Euatara’s wife preferred her own brown skin and. a rich mat of her own deft weaving. Marsden induced the chiefs to rub noses in sign of peace. They Laid aside their weapons and began to array themselves in such costumes as they possessed, scraps of military uniforms, old belltoppors, and such relics of exotic finery mingling discordantly with their native mats and feathers. When tiie time for service drew near the ship’s bells rang out tho signal. Everybody flocked to Euatara’s enclosure. The women and children occupied the centre, with the crow of the Active round them as a guard. The chiefs marched their men in good order and took up their positions next tho fence. It was an occasion of thrilling interest, and it wills sot in worthy surrounding.?.

The landlocked waters of the Bay of Islands gleam like a silver mirror, reflecting every loaf and twig of the overhanging greenery growing on the cliffs and headlands. The wavelets ripple gently to long stretches of white shelly beaches, the translucent tide swelling still, ■ sapphire seas. Every valley a hundred years ago was filled with boskage, and the pohutukawa drooped laden with crimson blossoms to meet tho tide.

Marsdcn gave out the Old Hundredth and raised the tune. .All the while, people knew it; so did some of the Maoris, who had been in .Sydney; the rest made shape to join in as they could. And so, under that summer sky, with the summer son shining down upon the scene, the first son" of Christian worship rose from New Zealand soil. The prayers and lessons of the Church of England liturgy followed, Euatara interpreting as they went along. ■ Then Marsden announced his text. It was appropriate alike to the occasion and to Christmas Day : “ Behold 1 bring yoif good tidings of great joy.” Throughout the whole service tho Maoris behaved with becoming solemnity. They rose and kneeled as they saw tho strangers do, courteously doing reverence with those that did reverence. They understood but little, it is true ; but their interest was aroused, and that day yaw a work begun which has been abundantly fruitful, to the glory of God and the good of the Maori race.

A monument now marks the spot where that first Christinas service was held and that first Christmas service preached. Marsden did not settle in New Zealand. Ho continued to live at Parramatta and to fulfil the duties of colonial chaplain of New South Wales. But ho never ceased to watch over the mission ho had founded, and its prosperity, if it owed much to the faithful man who came to labor in it, was indeed in no small measure duo to Marsden’s fostering care. Seven times in all ho visited these shores, and when, in 1848, he died, in his 74th year, Christianity had been taught all over the North Island. Tho majority of the Maoris had learned or were learning to read and write. There were, native clergymen and teachers; the people had left off lighting among themselves ; and from the villages where formerly could he heard nothing hut quarrelling, and where savage customs and cannibalism prevailed, now rose the sound of morning and evening prayer. * * *■ * ** * •* On Christmas Day a hundred years ago Samuel .Marsden spoke tho message of peace and good-will to the Maoris ot Mew Zealand, and warring tribes laid aside their hostilities to hear. And now, as wo mark tho centenary of that event, it is we who arc at war. This Christmas finds us engaged in the fiercest and most widespread conflict in all history. Tho word of peace seems to sound out of harmony with tho limes. It may be so. But let this bo boron in mind: tho war will ccmo to an end. Sooner or later—God grant it may be 1 soon—it will pass. But Christinas and the Christmas message and the Christmas hope are among tho things that endure. ‘‘Peace on earth; good-will towards men ”: all down tho ages it has been sung, and it will bo sung for ages yet to be, till Ho who is tho Princo of P&ico shall come.

Among tho nations He shall judge, His judgments truth shall guide; His sceptl-e shall protect the just, And quell tho sinner’s pride. No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds Disturb those peaceful years; To ploughshares men shall beat their swords, • • . To meaning hooks their spears.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141224.2.13

Bibliographic details

MARSDEN CENTENARY, Evening Star, Issue 15684, 24 December 1914

Word Count
1,378

MARSDEN CENTENARY Evening Star, Issue 15684, 24 December 1914

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