RONGO PAI!

In spite of the tragedy of the _Boyd_, in spite of the war of
individuals which vexed the coast–though murder was added to murder,
revenge piled upon revenge,–more Pakeha filtered into New Zealand,
content to brave death for the chance of obtaining a home and wealth.

On their part, more Maori deserted their _hapu_ for the great world
outside their little islands and, needless to say, were gazed at with
shuddering curiosity. Such as these, taught by experience that there
existed a race superior to their own, convinced their countrymen of the
advantages to be gained by permanent friendship with the British Pakeha.

So these played their part in watering the tree of civilisation, whose
roots now began to take firm hold of the soil; while the white men,
ever improving in type and conduct, helped along the great work.

As yet there was no attempt at systematic colonisation. Scattered over
the Islands and wholly dependent upon the good will of their hosts,
the Pakeha kept as friendly with the natives as circumstances would
allow, while they saw to it that musket or rifle stood ever handy to
their grip.

The taste which the Maori had acquired for wandering outside their own
country at length brought about a remarkable conjunction, destined
to bear most importantly upon the future of New Zealand. It was
nothing else than the formation of a friendship between a Christian
Englishman of singular nobility of character and a Maori of sanguinary
disposition, a warrior notable among a race of warriors and, withal, a
cannibal of cannibals.

In the first decade of the years when George the Third was king there
was born in Yorkshire a boy who was brought up as a blacksmith. For
some time he followed his trade; but, having a strong inclination
towards a missionary life, he was ordained a clergyman of the Church of
England, and in due course found himself senior chaplain of the colony
of New South Wales.

This man, whose name must be ever honoured in the history of New
Zealand, was Samuel Marsden, who was the first to desire to bring, and
who did actually bring the tidings of the Gospel to the land of the
Maori.

There were missionaries at work in Tahiti, in the Marquesas and in
Tonga; but New Zealand, the land of the ferocious warrior and savage
cannibal, had been esteemed an impossible country, or, at all events,
as not yet prepared for the sowing. So it was left to itself.

Then came a day when Samuel Marsden, walking through the narrow streets
of Sydney, stopped to gaze at a novel sight. Not far from him stalked
proudly three splendid-looking men, types of a race with which he was
unfamiliar.

They were not Australian aboriginals. That was instantly evident. Their
faces were strangely scarred, their heads, held high, were plumed with
rare feathers, and the outer garment they wore, of some soft, buff
material, suggested the Roman toga. There was, indeed, something Roman
about their appearance, with their fine features, strong noses, and
sternly compressed lips.

Mr. Marsden was from the first strongly attracted to these men and,
being informed that they were New Zealand chiefs, come on a visit to
Sydney, the good man grew sad. That such noble-looking men should be
heathen and cannibals inexpressibly shocked him, and he determined then
and there that what one of God’s servants might do for the salvation of
that proud, intellectual race, that, by the grace of God, he would do.

A man so deeply religious as Samuel Marsden was not likely to waste
time over a matter in his judgment so supremely important. The chiefs
readily admitted the anarchy induced by the constant friction between
brown men and white, though it was not to be expected that they should
realise at once their own spiritual darkness. Mr. Marsden was not
discouraged, and set in train a scheme whereby a number of missionaries
were to be sent out immediately by the Church Missionary Society, to
attempt the conversion of the Maori to Christianity.

Twenty-five of these reached Sydney, where men’s ears were tingling
with the awful details of the massacre of the _Boyd_, and judged the
risk too great. So they stayed where they were, and the conversion of
New Zealand was delayed for a season.

The residence of meek and peaceable men among such intractable savages
was deemed to be outside the bounds of possibility; but Marsden
firmly believed that the way would be opened in God’s good time, and
waited and watched and prayed, possessing his soul in patience. The
opportunity which he so confidently expected arrived in 1814.




Some ten years after the birth of Samuel Marsden another boy was born
on the other side of the world. Hongi[56] Ika was his name, a chief and
a chief’s son of the great tribe of the Nga-Puhi in the north. Marsden
had swung his hammer over the glowing iron and beaten out horse-shoes
and ploughshares. Hongi, too, swung his hammer; but it was the Hammer
of Thor. And every time that Hongi’s hammer fell, it beat out brains
and broke men’s bones, until none could be found to stand against
him. Yet Hongi had a hard knock or two now and then and, being as yet
untravelled, gladly assented when his friend Ruatara–who had seen King
George of England–suggested a visit to Sydney.

Hongi found plenty to interest him, and also took a philosopher’s
delight in arguing the great questions of religion with Mr. Marsden,
in whose house he and Ruatara abode. Marsden knew the man for what he
was, a warrior and a cannibal; but so tactful and persuasive was he
that, before his visit ended, Hongi agreed to allow the establishment
of a missionary settlement at the Bay of Islands, and promised it his
protection.

So the first great step was taken, and Marsden planted his vineyard. He
was a wise man and, knowing by report the shortcomings of the land he
desired to Christianise, took with him a good supply of animal food,
and provision for future needs as well, in the shape of sheep and oxen.
With a view to the requirements of his lieutenants, he also introduced
a horse or two.

What impression the sight of a man on horseback made upon the
Maori may be gathered from the experience of Mr. Edward Wakefield
twenty-seven years later at Whanganui. In this district, which is on
the opposite side of the Island to that on which Mr. Marsden landed,
and considerably farther south, the natives had never seen a horse.
Result–“They fled,” writes Mr. Wakefield, “in all directions, and, as
I galloped past those who were running, they fairly lay down on their
faces and gave themselves up for lost. I dismounted, and they plucked
up courage to come and take a look at the _kuri nui_, or ‘large dog.’
‘Can he talk?’ said one. ‘Does he like boiled potatoes?’ said another.
And a third, ‘Mustn’t he have a blanket to lie down on at night?’ This
unbounded respect and adoration lasted all the time that I remained.
A dozen hands were always offering him Indian corn (maize) and grass,
and sowthistles, when they had learned what he really did eat; and a
wooden bowl of water was kept constantly replenished close to him; and
little knots of curious observers sat round the circle of his tether
rope, remarking and conjecturing and disputing about the meaning and
intention of every whisk of his tail or shake of his ears.”

It was for long all endeavour and little result. But other missionaries
arrived, new stations were erected in various parts of the north, and
the Wesleyans, seven years later, imitated the example of the Church
Missionary Society and sent their contingent to the front.

To the fighting line these went indeed; for they settled at Whangaroa,
where the sunken hull of the _Boyd_ recalled the horror of twelve years
before. Tarra himself was still there, the memory of his stripes as
green as though he had but yesterday endured the poignant suffering. He
rendered vain for five long years the efforts of the missionaries, and
from his very deathbed cursed them, urging his tribe to drive them out;
so that they fled, thankful to escape with their lives–for they saved
nought else.

The missionaries of the Church Missionary Society nine years later
endured a similar hard experience, and were forced to flee from their
stations at Tauranga and Rotorua. A bishop and a company of priests,
sent by Pope Gregory XVI., arrived at Hokianga in the year 1838, and
these, too, presently learned what it was to suffer for their faith.

But in spite of hardships–whether stripped of their possessions,
whether driven from their homes, whether death met them at every turn,
the missionaries, no matter what their creed, persevered. They looked
not back to the evil days which lay behind; but faint, yet pursuing,
pushed onward, until the North Island was sprinkled with the white
houses of their missions, over which floated the flag of the Prince of
Peace, emblazoned with His message, “_Rongo Pai!_”

Then came the crossing of Cook Strait, and the spiritual conquest
of the Middle Island. New missionaries constantly arrived, fresh
recruits ever enrolled under the banner of the Cross; until, a bare
two-and-twenty years from that Christmas Day when Samuel Marsden
preached his first sermon in a land where Christianity was not even a
name, four thousand Maori converts knelt in the House of God.

This was not accomplished without strenuous effort. The difficulties
and dangers which confronted the earliest _mihonari_ would have driven
back all but the most earnest and faithful men. The record of their
sufferings and struggles would of itself fill a volume. Indeed, only
the least suggestion has been made here of what they bore for Christ’s
sake. But their works do follow them, gone to their rest as all of them
are; and what prouder epitaph can be theirs than this: They came; they
saw; and they conquered at last!