| revivle in newzelend the eary days|
just some imformation i found thought you gyes might like to read it
A HISTORY OF
THE GREAT AWAKENING AMONGST THE MAORIS
The greatest evangelical movement to occur, so far, in New Zealand, was in fact the first one to happen at all.
This movement occurred approximately between the years 1835 and 1845, centring around the year 1839.
Strangely, this great movement has been largely neglected amongst church historians in the land of "the long
white cloud". It was to be followed by a period of terrible wars, between some of the Maoris and some of the white
people. The conflict tended to overshadow the great good which had happened before, causing it to be forgotten or
denied. There was much unoccupied land in parts of New Zealand when the white settlers began arriving after 1840,
but some conflict was probably inevitable. The great awakening also occurred substantially before large-scale white
settlement began. As a result, church history in New Zealand is often seen as starting with the beginnings of the white
It is hard to deny the verdict of historians who know the story of what happened just before white settlement,
that, if this great evangelical movement had not occurred, the arrival of large numbers of white settlers would have been
marked by far greater distress and blood-shedding than actually took place. Captain Hobson, the first Governor, said
in his address to the Legislative Council in 1841:- "Whatever difference of opinion may be entertained as to the value
and extent of the labours of the missionary body, there can be no doubt that they have rendered important service to the
country, or that, but for them, a British colony would not at this moment be established in New Zealand." (1.)
In 1867, the main Anglican historian of this Maori movement, Bishop William Williams, published the story,
entitled "Christianity Among the New Zealanders". In his earlier ministry he had translated the New Testament into the
Maori language; had seen many of the events he described, and had access to many C.M.S. documents of the relevant
time. In 1989, the Banner of Truth Trust publishing house in Edinburgh, issued a reprint of this book. These publishers
expressed their belief that this great movement was "a work of grace...which ranks second to none in the annals of
missionary endeavour." (2.)
Maori Religious Ideas
Before tracing this great movement, however, it is useful to comment upon aspects of Maori religious beliefs at
the time of the arrival of the first missionaries, because these beliefs strongly influenced what the missionaries could
achieve. Religious beliefs in any society go through an evolution over a period of time, and, at the time when the
missionaries arrived, Maori beliefs had reached a point where the gods they believed in could be grouped into four
(1.) Io, the Supreme God, Creator of the Universe;
(2.) Departmental gods, such as personifications of the forces of nature and mind;
(3.) District gods, belief in whom was widely held;
(4.) Demons, spirits, deified ancestors and household gods.
Io was viewed as the eternal, majestic, good, omnipotent and all-knowing God. Here was ultimately a pure
monotheism. But Io was only known about, and worshipped, by the priests. The chiefs and common people knew
nothing of Him. If knowledge of Io had been widespread when the missionaries arrived, their task would have been
much easier. Even the missionaries themselves did not discover this Maori belief in Io until well after they had begun
their work. The word used for "God" in early Bible translating was the word applying to lesser gods, possibly noted for
evil deeds and killings. The mythical stories portrayed a situation where the lesser gods had removed Io, the supreme
God, completely away from normal human existence.
Every aspect of life was affected by the Maori's understanding of the various lesser gods, and of the
relationship that people had to these gods.
These theological ideas produced a situation where every aspect of life was lived in the presence of the gods,
and in reaction to them. Every aspect of life was sacred in a varying number of ways.
The coming of the missionaries began to produce an element of secularisation, which had not been present
before. There was also a secularising element, in the days before 1840, produced by the small number of white traders,
etc., who had come to live in New Zealand, and who, in most cases, lived godless, dissolute and irreligious lives.
Where such men married Maori women, they became affected by Maori kinship rules, and some tribal responsibilities.
But, the main secularising impact came after 1840, with the floods of white people, and a new government,
much of which was largely secular in character.
A whole range of fascinating mythological stories existed involving the lesser gods, including stories about
the creation of nature, and of humanity. But these gods were not necessarily good or well-behaved.
When the missionaries arrived, there was no belief in any penalty for evil, or reward for righteousness,
amongst the ordinary Maoris. This reduced greatly any reasons for behaving in a civil manner, especially toward one's
enemies, who were always treated with extreme barbarity.
There was a general belief in an afterlife in the form of an underworld, but a higher idea of an afterlife was
only found amongst the priests.
"The fact that there was no line of demarcation between righteousness and sin, between godliness and devilry,
between goodness and badness had a great deal of bearing on the Maori's reception of Christianity. But, in the absence
of this sense of values, what check was there on unbridled licence? Often enough the missionaries were puzzled and
dismayed by this lack in the native race, and despaired of achieving any permanent results in bringing the faith to a
people of such alien thought" (3.)
Maori Culture and Personal Qualities
When the first missionaries arrived, the Maoris had many personal and cultural qualities of a positive kind, but
these tended not to be noticed so much by the missionaries.
After all, the missionaries had come to make changes to Maori individuals and culture. This was part of their
mandate from the New Testament, that they should make disciples of Christ from all nations, principally by preaching
the Gospel to them, and encouraging Christian behaviour. In the service of this goal, they brought English civilization
and technology with them, as well.
But, as well as seeing English technology and outlooks as servants of the Gospel, the missionaries were also
enmeshed in that culture in deeper ways than they realised.
The missionaries also saw many Maori personal and cultural features which appalled them, and these features
were the main ones which were described in their letters home. The purpose for doing this was often to encourage
prayer to God, that, with His help, a major change could be made in these apparently negative qualities.
Naturally, the missionaries were influenced in what they thought civilized behaviour should be like by what
they knew from life in England. They were also influenced in what they thought Christian behaviour ought to be like,
as well, by what they had experienced amongst Christians in England. Evangelicals were well aware that not
everything that passed for civilization was Christian, and all these missionaries were evangelicals.
Dr. J. M. R. Owens cites an example of how one missionary recognised positive Maori qualities where, in his
Journal, John Hobbs contrasted the healthy, natural methods of rearing babies, as practised by Maori women, with the
unhealthy methods used in England. (4.)
Other qualities, which sometimes caused problems for the missionaries, but which we might now see as
positive qualities, are factors arising from the very strong kinship ties which the Maoris enjoyed, and the ways they felt
obliged to support their relations, and other tribal members. Their family structures, also, were extended, and Maori
children enjoyed benefits flowing from that factor, which tend not to be enjoyed in cultures where the nuclear family
principle operates more fully.
Since that time, the missionaries have been criticised many times for destroying aspects of Maori culture. But,
as Owens points out, the churches did more to preserve than to destroy Maori culture. Ever since the 1840's, there have
been a steady stream of church people who were vitally concerned for Maori welfare on the widest front. The churches
had a much better record in this than the universities, for example. It is only since the 1960's that the universities have
realised that there is such a thing as Maori culture. (5.)
There were, nevertheless, deep ways in which the missionaries failed to understand the Maoris. On the other
hand, it must be said that the missionaries came with the purpose of loving the Maoris in the best ways that they, as
Christians, knew how.
But the more obvious negative qualities possessed by the Maoris at that time included that they were
aggressive and bloodthirsty. They loved to fight; they were cannibals, and they delighted in treachery. In this way they
were like so many of the other Pacific island tribal groups at that time. The Maoris were a race of Polynesian descent,
strong and well-built.
The negative qualities were, no doubt, accentuated by the fact that the Maoris had only just come into contact
with modern gunnery, and these weapons provided each tribe with a means of the wholesale destruction of the enemies
that the tribe might have. It was naturally good strategy to get a supply of guns quickly, before the neighbouring tribes
could do so. Much effort was put into this project, and the weapons were then used, with devastating effect.
Traditionally, wars began for slight reasons. As a result, a process of de-population was occurring, when the
missionaries arrived, being inflicted by as many tribes as could put it into practice.
These, and other, negative qualities were illustrated by an early Wesleyan missionary, the Rev. William
Woon, writing home in 1846, and trying to emphasise the great change which had recently taken place before his eyes.
"Truly, this people have been the slaves of sin and Satan. The account we have heard of what they did in the
days of their ignorance, and when under the power of the enemy, is revolting to humanity; being without natural
affection, and guilty of shedding each others blood without remorse. They now shudder at the deeds of death they have
perpetrated, and the change experienced they all ascribe to the influence of the Gospel. In one of the settlements which
I visited the other day, being formerly one of the principal fortifications of this people in the time of their wars, the
residents related to me how numerous were its inhabitants which were swept away by their enemies; and but for the
Gospel the remainder would all have been cut off, as late as 1835 an exterminating party came upon them but were
repulsed, and disappointed in their expectations. MOTHERS who used to trample their children to death, when infants,
to get rid of them, because they were troublesome, are now possessed of the love of God, and love their offspring.
MEN whose hands were against every man, and every man's against them, who used to kill and devour their enemies in
war, are now walking in the fear of God, and in the comforts of the Holy Spirit, who love their neighbours as
themselves, and all mankind for Christ's sake. CHILDREN who were ignorant and debased by the corrupt example of
their parents, are now instructed and taught in schools, and can read fluently in the New Testament Scriptures." (6.)
Like the story of Henry Obookiah of Hawaii, and others of a similar kind, the entry of the gospel into New
Zealand was prepared by God in a most remarkable way through a young Maori chief who was taken away from his
homeland in a ship to a distant world.
Tuatara was the son of a chief. He had been taken away from his home to meet King George. Instead, he was
badly treated, cheated of all his wages, saw very little of London, and was put on a convict ship, in a very poor state of
health. It so happened that this was the ship carrying the Rev. Samuel Marsden to Australia. Upon hearing his story,
Marsden took Tuatara under his personal care. By proper treatment, Tuatara recovered, and remained under Marsden's
roof in Sydney for six months until the opportunity arose to send him back to his own people. Tuatara would also be
able to make a welcoming situation for missionaries who were soon to arrive.
On this trip from Sydney to New Zealand, the Maori was again despised, defrauded and ill-treated. Although
the ship passed only a few miles from the spot where Tuatara's people lived, and was in sight of his home, he was
carried to Norfolk Island, and left there. A whaler found him there almost naked and in the last stages of want, and took
him back to Samuel Marsden in Sydney.
After another short stay with the Marsdens, he was at last taken back to his native home, and what a story he
had to tell! The tales of the wrongs done to him were enough to create a thirst for revenge, which would have been
directed at the first white person to appear, whether innocent or guilty. But this was counter-balanced by the story of
Marsden's kindness. Tuatara was very grateful to the clergyman, and this respect was shared by many of the other
Maoris. It increased with the years.
After a preliminary visit to Tuatara's tribe by three pioneer missionaries, and a return visit to the Marsdens by
Tuatara and six other chiefs, the senior chaplain in N.S.W. was at last given permission by the Governor to sail to New
Zealand. After much preparations by his Maori friends, the first Christian service was conducted on New Zealand soil,
on the morning of Christmas Day, 1814. The Rev. Samuel Marsden conducted it, and preached the sermon, while
Tuatara translated it as best he could for the crowd of Maoris. The text was "Behold! I bring you glad tidings of great
However, Tuatara died very shortly afterwards. Another chief of this tribe, Hongi, by name, went to England
and met the king, but then became inflamed to be sole ruler of New Zealand. Hongi commenced a series of wars, using
firearms he had brought from overseas, and wreaked devastation far and wide. These wars made all missionary work
extremely difficult, and led to the destruction of the Wesleyan work in 1827, which had been commenced by the Rev.
Samuel Leigh and his helpers, with the encouragement of Marsden, and the fraternal wishes of all of Marsden's C.M.S.
The wars resulting from Hongi's ambitions were not, however, the main problems that the missionaries faced.
The wars created political and diplomatic problems, but the main problems were more spiritual and cultural.
The Maori priesthood held a strong sway, based in the use of witchcraft and sorcery, superstitious beliefs and
practices, and involving the whole pantheon of lesser gods. Naturally, the priests did not want to lose their power base.
Also, the chiefs were looked upon as sacred. This idea of their sacredness, or "tapu", helped to fortify their position of
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Commencement of the Wesleyan Work
In his youth, Samuel Marsden had been brought up amongst the Wesleyan Methodists. He retained a great
regard for them, and agreed with their evangelistic thrust. His own support came from the evangelical wing of the
Anglican Church in England, and the missionaries who were sent out to carry out this work were all evangelical in
sympathy, and in the main thrust of their spiritual work.
After Marsden had been in New South Wales for a number of years, the first Wesleyan missionary arrived in
Australia, the Rev. Samuel Leigh. He was welcomed at Parramatta by the Marsden family. It was natural, therefore,
that he should try to encourage the Wesleyans to be interested in missionary work in New Zealand, as well.
As a result of this encouragement, Leigh himself led the first Wesleyan missionary advance to New Zealand.
His biography gives many details of the early years of this work. He was ably supported by a number of ministers and
laymen in this work. Leigh, himself, was not able to continue long at it, because his health became undermined. His
health was such that even when he returned to New South Wales, he was not able to contribute very much to the
Wesleyan work there. In due course, he returned to England.
There were no signs of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early Wesleyan days any more than the
Anglicans saw. Both groups faced the same difficulties and dangers.
Indeed, the difficulties caused by Hongi's wars were such that the Wesleyan work was effectively destroyed in
1827, and did not re-commence until 1830.
The Situation in 1824
It is so often the case that God allows His people to get to a very low point just before He begins to unfold His
blessings. That is what happened here. Not only were the missionaries praying for new signs of spiritual life, but many
in other countries were praying for New Zealand, as well.
In the C.M.S. work, the year 1824 brought the very first signs of some success. Up to this time, the Maoris
were totally indifferent to the instructions that the missionaries tried to place before them. In general, this situation
continued for several more years. "They did not regard the white man and the New Zealander as having anything in
common. They had their own traditions about the origin of the world. Their language, their customs and their gods
were different, and their superstitions led them to believe that it would be fatal for them to neglect any of those rites
which had been handed down to them, and exchange them for those of a foreign race. They were dead in sin, and it was
only the power of God which could give them life. Hence therefore, when a chief was asked why the people did not
attend when they knew the white man was coming, he would reply that they did not care about such things; all they
thought of was eating and fighting; he had called his people, but they would not come. When told that they should die
in their present state, they must for ever be banished to the place of darkness and misery, they were unconcerned about
such tidings; and as to the work of redemption, they said they could not understand it. The dominion of Satan was
never more visible. If the time had not arrived for this people to receive the gospel message, certainly the time was
come for the servants of the Lord to pour out their prayers to him in humble supplication to remove the veil from the
eyes and hearts of this people.
The greatest desire of the natives was to possess muskets and powder, and in order to procure these they
laboured hard to grow potatoes for the whaling vessels, where the supply of these commodities was to be had. Their
ambition was that the whole tribe should be well equipped for their wars, which now engrossed their whole attention.
And yet there was encouragement for the missionaries, inasmuch as they were able to hold their ground against so much
indifference and opposition. The natives, too, upon the whole were kind to them, and while they cared not for
instruction, they liked to have the missionaries living with them. Some, too, began to be dissatisfied with themselves.
A few desired that their children should be educated. These indications were worthy of notice, but the exercise of faith
was required to look forward to a substantial change", and to the fulfilment of God's promises about the results of the
preaching of the Gospel. (7.)
First Baptisms in the C.M.S. Work
A Maori named Whatu had been to New South Wales, and had heard Samuel Marsden talking about Jesus
Christ, but could not understand what was being said.
Back in New Zealand, he began to suffer from a fatal illness, and had more time to think. Being brought low,
he was glad to hear about another hope beyond this world, which is secured to the helpless sinner through that Saviour
who died for him, and there was good reason to believe that Whatu learned to depend upon this.
"But another instance of the power of the Gospel soon followed. After the devastations committed by Hongi at
the river Thames, the people of Bream Bay, a little further north, who were Hongi's allies, felt insecure in their position
between the hostile tribes; and through fear of the vengeance of the Thames natives, they came to live at the Bay of
Islands. Rangi was a chief of some rank in this tribe, and he, with his small party, took up their abode about a mile
from Paihia, where they came under the frequent instruction of the missionaries. While indifference marked the
character of most of his friends, old Rangi listened with attention to the new instruction. He impressed upon his people
the propriety of observing the sabbath day, and he was in the habit of hoisting a piece of red cloth for a flag, as a signal
to his neighbours that it was God's sacred day. At length it pleased God to bring him very low by sickness, and he was
gradually falling away under the ravages of a severe cough. But as the body wasted his mind was becoming light, as
the rays of the sun of righteousness had evidently beamed upon him. About two months before his death, when he was
under much bodily suffering, he was asked what he thought of death.
"My thoughts," he said, "are continually in heaven, in the morning, at mid-day, and at night. My belief is in
the great God and in Jesus Christ."
"That is very good", he was told, "for there is no pain in heaven, either for the mind or the body, no fear of the
enemy coming to kill you, but a quiet rest for ever. But do you not at times think that our God is not your God, and that
you will not go to heaven?"
"That is what I sometimes think when I am alone. I think I shall go to heaven, and then I think perhaps I shall
not go there; and possibly this God of the white people may not be my God; and then, after I have been thinking in this
way, and my heart has been cast down, it again becomes more cheerful, and the thought that I shall go to heaven
"But what payment have you to bring to God for the sins you have committed?"
"I have nothing to give Him, only I believe that He is the true God, and I believe in Jesus Christ."
"Do you not know who was the payment for your sins?"
"I do not quite understand that."
"Have you forgotten that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He came into this world and suffered for
"Yes, yes, I remember you told me that before, and my whole wish is to go and dwell in heaven when I die. I
have prayed to God, and to Jesus Christ, and my heart feels full of light."
His end was drawing near. He had maintained a steadfast course for many months; he professed his faith in
Christ as his Saviour, and appeared to rejoice in hope of eternal life. Every proof of sincerity which could be looked for
was given, and he was now admitted into the Church by baptism. To those who had been the means of leading him to a
knowledge of Christ, it was a season of gladness. Surrounded by those who would willingly have drawn him back, he,
in the presence of all, boldly renounced the darkness which once hung over him, and he was able to profess the sure and
certain hope of soon being in glory.
This was the first Christian baptism, the earnest of a large harvest, which in God's appointed time was to be
gathered in." (8.)
"About the close of the year 1827, after a season of unusual trouble, it became evident that there was a more
general diffusion of that divine influence, which was to extend on the right hand and on the left. In the missionary
stations there were a few who began to pay more serious attention. It was noticed that some met together for prayer and
reading the Scriptures. A small book was printed at this time in New South Wales, consisting of the first three chapters
of Genesis, the twentieth of Exodus, the fifth of St Matthew, and the first of St John's Gospel. This was a small matter
in itself, but it was a beginning, and the little book was of great use among the few who were disposed to profit by it."
(9.) In some villages, a few people showed interest also.
Hongi died in 1828, as a result of wounds from one of his campaigns. But the Maori appetite for violence,
cruelty and fighting, for revenge, and for the total destruction of one's enemies, had been built up more than normal,
and, as a result, the fighting continued. Whole areas had become depopulated, and, in some cases, smaller or less
warlike tribes had been wiped out.
Modest schools had been in operation at several mission stations for a few years, now. And some fruits of
education were beginning to appear. Annual examinations and displays of work were held. After a few of these
gatherings had occurred, a contrast started to become clear between the present and the past. "Here were a number of
cannibals collected from the tribes around, who a few years before were ignorant of every principle of religion (i.e. of
Christianity), many of them, like their fathers, had feasted on their fellow-creatures, and gloried in the practice, but now
there was not an individual who was not in some degree acquainted with the truths of the Christian religion, which, with
the blessing of God, might be the means of their conversion. Not long before they had commenced on the simple
rudiments of instruction; now many of them could read and write their own language with propriety, and some were
masters of the first rules of arithmetic. But a few years before a chisel made of stone was their only implement; now
they had not only the tools of civilized man, but were learning to use them. Work done by the native carpenters...would
have done credit to a workman in a civilized country."
"The progress which had been made in the work of evangelisation was very slow up to this period, but it was a
steady advance. A spirit of inquiry was now at work in the missionary stations. A little band was starting to feel its
way after those doctrines which they had long heard without effect." (10.)
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Robert Evans was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1937. He trained for the Methodist ministry, and was ordained by the
N.S.W. Methodist Conference in 1967. He served as a Circuit minister, and subsequently also in the Uniting Church,
retiring from parish responsibilities in 1998.
He graduated from the University of Sydney, majoring in philosophy and modern history. In his private
studies he has specialised in the nature and modern history of evangelical revivals and the great awakenings, and in the
literature relating to these movements, assembling a large private library about this subject.
In 1988, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, for contributions to science. He is a member of
the International Astronomical Union, and of other professional and amateur astronomical bodies. He is an honorary
member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and holds many awards for his work as an amateur in searching
for supernova explosions in other galaxies.
He is married to Elaine, and they have four adult daughters, and two grandsons.
Roy McKenzie was born in Nelson, New Zealand, and his family made their home in Blenheim. He graduated with a
Bachelor of Arts degree from the Victoria University, Wellington, and gained a Diploma in Theology from Knox
Theological Hall, Dunedin. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
He served four pastorates from 1963 to 1994, including one Congregational charge, and concluded with a tenyear
pastorate in Dunedin. Roy, and his wife, June, moved to Gore, and enjoy a part-time preaching-teaching-pastoral
ministry, largely around Southland churches.
Study Leave research on revival, in the Scriptures, in Church History, and in personal experience, has fuelled
an ever-growing prayerful desire for a nation-wide spiritual awakening.
June and Roy are thankful for three sons, with three grandchildren.
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