Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants
Chapter XX. Church
Chapter XX. Church.
The Church in New Zealand! This must be a subject of the deepest interest to the Church at home, by whose instrumentality it has been planted. What is its present state? What are its hopes and prospects for the future? Its position is both encouraging and discouraging; much has been done, but much also remains to be done, to secure the New Zealand race as a permanent part of the Church Universal, and to blend it with our own in one harmonious whole.
The Gospel has been proclaimed in the length and breadth of the land—the religion of ancient days has given way; the deeply-rooted institutions of remote times, which once held absolute sway over the native mind, have been torn up and cast aside.page 301
Nationally, the land is Christian. To the Church Missionary and Wesleyan Societies alone must the honour be given of accomplishing what has been done; and, though in later years, other laborers have appeared in the field, yet they have effected nothing worth recording.
But the subject for our more immediate consideration is the Church of England in New Zealand, or, more properly speaking, the Church which the former has been the honored instrument of planting.
The laborers who have been employed in this work were few in number, though the harvest has been great, and the field of labour extensive, even the length and breadth of the island. The soldiers of the cross have, therefore, only been able to overrun the land, and partially occupy it. Except by native teachers, many of whom are naturally very inefficient, and with the exception of a few schools, the grand bulk of the rising generation has not been attended to. It is, therefore, evident that after the first zeal and enthusiasm of the converts have passed away, deadness and indifference must, as a matter of course, ensue, independent of other causes, such as the increase of irreligious characters, who are constantly wandering about in every part of the island, and are unceasing in their efforts to undermine the labors of the Missionary. The greater attention given to the cultivation of the land and other labors, which engross the mind, are also at present exercising an injurious influence, and rendering the natives less attentive to their religious duties.
To make the work permanent, it is evident a ministry equal to the wants of the Church must be established, and schools proportioned to the population, be instituted.
But before this can be properly effected, the Church itself must first be formed, and its constitution fixed: this is yet to be done. As far as the natives are concerned, its discipline has been established; but the Church in general as applied to both races, is without any system which can meet its general wants and necessities.
* Wellington, New Zealand, October, 1850.
To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of New Zealand.
We, the undersigned, members of that branch of the Church of England which is settled in New Zealand, beg, with great respect, to offer the following exposition of our views and wishes for your Lordship's consideration:—
We are deeply impressed with the conviction, that no Church can be in a satisfactory state which is destitute of a definite external organization, involving the means of making laws and regulations for the management of its own affairs. Without such an organization, indeed, a Church can hardly (we mean with reference to temporal matters only) be said to exist as a corporate body at all; however numerous, zealous, and pious its individual members may be, still, as a Church, it can neither act nor speak, nor perform any of the functions incident to corporate vitality. This, however, is unfortunately the state of things which now exists in these islands, with respect to the members of our communion, and it is needless for us to explain at length to your Lordship the evils which it necessarily involves. We have no regular machinery for raising funds for ecclesiastical purposes, nor for securing their due appropriation and employment—no means of framing and enforcing a system of internal discipline—no means of providing by suitable legislation for the needs of that very peculiar and critical position which is occupied by our branch of Christ's Church. Nor is external feebleness the only evil which is produced by the absence of any Church organization; it is, moreover, hardly possible under such circumstances, to avoid the danger of torpor and apathy with respect to ecclesiastical affairs among individuals; the danger, in other words, of indifference about responsibilities and duties, which they have no adequate means of discharging. Feeling, very strongly, the existence and magnitude of the evils to which we have referred, we now approach your Lordship with our earnest request that you will take steps towards the application of an effectual remedy for them.
From what we have said, your Lordship will perceive that, in our opinion, such a remedy is to be found in the constitution of a government for the Church of New Zealand. We do not think it necessary or expedient to submit to your Lordship a detailed plan for such a government; but we have no hesitation in saying that any plan, which shall provide for the doe representation of all orders and classes of Churchmen in a general Legislative Assembly, and which shall attribute to that Assembly power to regulate and manage all the ecclesiastical affairs which concern the members of our communion in their corporate capacity, will command our full and cordial assent. These constitute, in our opinion, the two main principles upon which such a government as we now seek should be founded: and we earnestly trust that, if your Lordship shall think fit to accede to the request which we have made, you will not lose sight of the great importance which we attribute to them.
In conclusion, we have only to add, that we venture to anticipate your Lordship's favourable consideration of our suggestions with the greater confidence, because we are aware that you have long been anxious to see an efficient form of Church government established in your diocese, and have on various occasions recommended the subject to our serious consideration.
(Signed) Octavius Hadvield, Archdeacon of Kapiti, And twelve others.
The grand and permanent form which the Christian Church will assume on earth, is yet to be seen; nor will it be surprising if it should first assume it in these distant parts of the earth, in our colonies, where the deeply-rooted prejudices and feelings of former times are not established, and where everything is prepared for the introduction of a more truly comprehensive form of divine worship, which shall not only be national, but universal in its operation. The Church in New Zealand was first commenced with the preaching of the Gospel, as in Apostolic times, so the same constitution then established cannot be unsuitable for our infant Church. We ought to begin de novo, and not see how much of intermediate systems can be retained. The strong effort now made to erect an ecclesiastical hierachy in the southern hemisphere will and must fail, because the times and feelings of the people, as well as the word of God, are against it. Hence the feeble impression made on the public mind by the minutes of conference of the Australian Bishops at Sydney, from whose united spirituality so much was naturally expected.*
* That the introduction, &c., of the question of Holy Baptism, &c., was uncalled for and injudicious; the construction put by them (i.e. Bishops), if imposed, would be tantamount to a new article of faith.—Resolution of the Clergy of Australia.
The Australian Bishops, &c., have attempted to narrow the terms of communion, &c., by their formal gratuitous and unnecessary dogmatical declaration on the subject of Baptismal Regeneration.—Resolutions of the Laity of South Australia.
We regret, that after the decision of the Privy Council, and two Archbishops, your Lordship should have allowed yourself to regard the views of Mr. Gorham and Tract 90, as the extremes of departure from honest cohesion to the Articles and Liturgy, &c.—Address of the Clergy in Van Diemen's Land to their Bishop.
Those minutes clearly revealed the desires of their framers, who, however they might conceal their real principles, evidently showed their determination to avail themselves of every opportunity to shackle the mind with the thraldom of the darkest ages of the Church. One alone of that bench declared to the public, his sentiments were not in unison with those of his brethren, and that solitary individual is justly esteemed by his diocese as one whose feelings do accord with the age he lives in.
At home, Church and State are united. Nationally we have acknowledged our duty of maintaining the worship of God, and made it a part of the law of the land to do so. Never has the British empire so signally prospered as it has done since this has been the case.
But this law is now confined to the parent state; it does not apply to the colonies; there is no established form of worship, or any national acknowledgment of God in them.
In New South Wales, it is true, Sir Richard Burke's Church Act provided a Government maintenance for ministers of every denomination, Jew and Gentile; but the enormous cost of this multiplied provision, has already compelled legislators to put a restriction upon it for the future, and in all probability, every denomination will shortly have to maintain its own ministry, and the increasing infidel part of the community will furnish aid to none.
This is the case in New Zealand. The Government has destroyed the connexion of Church and State, or rather has not extended the law of England to New Zealand. Government has done nothing to establish the worship of God in the page 305 land; it has neither aided in the erection of churches, or in the maintenance of the ministry. The Sovereign here ceases to be “the Defender of the Faith,” in the sense used in England. All that has hitherto been done to establish the Church of England, has been accomplished by the Church itself, as represented by the Church Missionary Society, and more recently, by the Society for Promoting the Gospel. Therefore, with those two powerful societies of our Church, at present rests the maintenance of the New Zealand Church, which is not yet sufficiently rooted in the land to sustain itself, without being still upheld by the fostering hands which first planted it. So long as this state continues, with them must rest the right and duty of selecting and appointing its bishops and pastors, and drawing up a system for its future governance.
But when those societies withdraw their aid, and leave the infant church to its own resources, and to support its ministry, then it must exercise its own inherent right in the sole appointment of its officers.
Cast off by Government, it must rely upon itself, and altered as that Government now is, it may be quite as well, and is no doubt intended by Infinite Wisdom to preserve the Church pure, and from an injurious influence.
In considering the future constitution of the Church, I cannot help thinking that its ministry should have looked more to those societies representing the parent Church, and less to secular aid. It seems remarkable, that whilst in general, the ministry is so jealous of all lay interference, in this case it has rather looked up to its superior piety and wisdom to give our infant Church its future form, than to the archbishops and bishops of the parent Church. I cannot but think that this is inconsistent with faith and principle.
The American Episcopalian Church, when severed from its Anglican parent, looked to itself, and not to the State, in solemn convocation imploring the guidance and direction of the Most High, used the power given it, drew up its own laws, and has gone on and prospered ever since. Surely this is a suitable example for the Colonial Church at the present time.page 306
This is a critical period for the Church of New Zealand, and the Australian colonies as well. May their members look above for direction, and not trust in an arm of flesh, but solely lean on the arm of the Lord. With the Bible in hand, may they invoke the aid of the Holy Spirit, and in full confidence look to the Great Head of the Church to direct and lead them to carry it on, according to His good will and pleasure, so as best to accomplish the great purpose which must never be lost sight of—the establishment of Christ's universal kingdom on earth.
The Church in the colonies, it must be remembered and acknowledged, does not exclusively belong to the Church of England. Men of all denominations and creeds flock to those newly-founded communities; colonial society, therefore, is formed of every shade of religion.
It becomes, then, a deeply important inquiry, Shall all the differences of the old country be perpetuated in these new ones? Shall these little rising communities be split into all those religious factions which separate the Church at home? Is it desirable? Is it consonant with Christian love and unity? Is it calculated to promote the spread of our common faith, and the establishment of the Church Universal? It cannot be Why then attempt it? In doing so, we only transport to the colonies the worst part of our faith; we destroy the kernel, love and unity, which alone possesses the germ of vitality, and content ourselves with carrying off the worthless husks of our Christianity—our divisions and hatreds—to these our adopted homes. How can we expect that such will flourish?
But is it necessary? Shall we of the Church of England be satisfied with being only one of the many petty sects, and shall they of those sects be content to transport all the animosities, heart burnings, bitterness, and separations of the old country? God forbid,—it is not, cannot be necessary; it is contrary to reason, love, and Christianity.
But further: it is very seldom that men carry away all the bitterness and exclusive feelings of the fatherland; as they mix with persons of the other classes, they gradually become softened, asperities are rubbed down, and each soon begin to page 307 think more kindly of the other, however far separated at home; in fact, old ocean washes away many of the vain fancies of former days before he lands them on the shores of their newly-adopted country. Hence, abroad, the Churchman and Dissenter condescend to meet; the stiff Presbyterian and Episcopalian are good friends. All find the real differences between them to be much less than they once thought; their mountains turn into molebills, and it becomes evident that the difficulties in the way of union are not so many and insurmountable as they once thought them to be.
The present state of division at home is anything but agreeable to the word of God; nor can it now be helped, unless a miracle should knock down all the partition walls, which separate man from his fellow. The Evangelical Alliance has been called into existence, with the laudable object of uniting all who love the Lord in one bond of fellowship; but though much has been done, yet so long as each continues to stand apart ensconced in his own fortress, how can they be brought together? It is in the colonies that so desirable an object has the best chance of being accomplished, before their various systems are established;—there, the difficulties which hinder union at home do not exist. We have neither that corrupt patronage which disgraces the English Church, nor those who buy and sell God's patrimony, who, whilst inflicting such a deadly wound on the vitality of the church, render the union with those without hopeless.
What, then, is necessary to render all of one heart and mind? It is not the surrendering any part of our creed—for the Presbyterian and Evangelical dissenter equally hold it,—it is simply so to enlarge the outward portals, as to admit all within; so to simplify our church government, and to give the laity a voice in its councils, that they may feel themselves to be indeed members of Christ's body. With softened feelings this cannot be a very difficult work; with so desirable an object in view, few real Christians would object to concede some points to obtain such an union. How glorious an end!—a truly National Church would then be page 308 established. In effecting this, another end would also be gained, viz., the removal of all difficulty from a state endowment; the great obstacle to which, at present, is, the multiplicity of sects, and the want of it will be the certain increase of infidelity, now lamentably apparent in the colonies. It would give them the character of Christian states, which at present they have not, and ensure the divine blessing, which we cannot expect so long as (heathen-like) we nationally deny God!
Could but the present Bishop of New Zealand entertain similar sentiments to those here expressed, there is no one whose learning, zeal, self-devotion, and energy, would better fit him for such a noble undertaking; and I feel firmly persuaded the time is rapidly approaching, when these views will not be thought chimerical, but the only sound ones which will bear the test of Scripture, and which, therefore, must finally prevail.