1814-1853 - The Missionary Register [Sections relating to New Zealand.] - 1841 - Notices of the Character of the Late Rev. Samuel Marsden, p 353-355

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  1814-1853 - The Missionary Register [Sections relating to New Zealand.] - 1841 - Notices of the Character of the Late Rev. Samuel Marsden, p 353-355
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Notices of the Character of the Late Rev. Samuel Marsden.

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Missionary Register.

AUGUST, 1841.



IT will be deeply to be regretted, if the Life and Times of the Apostolic Marsden should not engage the heart and pen of some competent Writer, while ample materials can be furnished by his surviving friends at home and in the scene of his labours. If the Bishop of Australia would be pleased to direct his attention to this subject, a Work would be produced of pre-eminent benefit to his Lordship's diocese in all future years.

Mr. Marsden's name occurs throughout the whole series of our Volumes, as connected with the work of Missions, especially in the Islands of New Zealand. In the Volume for 1838, at pp. 481, 482, a brief Memorial appears; and we here subjoin some notices of his Character, derived from a Sermon, preached at Parramatta, the chief scene of his Ministry in New South Wales, by the Rev. Henry Stiles, Colonial Assistant Chaplain at Windsor.

Samuel Marsden was no common character: he was not merely a good and pious man, who filled up the space allotted for him on earth, and then sank into the grave: he was not merely a faithful and indefatigable Minister of Christ, who loved and served his Saviour, and turned many to repentance, and is now gone to his reward; --but he was more. Rightly to estimate his character, we must view him as a peculiar man, raised up for an especial purpose. The Lord in Heaven ever cares for His Church on earth; and when particular exigencies require it, He raises up men, who, by natural character and disposition in some degree, and by His special grace in a far greater measure, are fitted for His purposes. As Luther in Germany, and John Knox in Scotland, and Cranmer in England, were sent by the Head of the Church, and fitted with peculiar qualifications to unfold His glorious Gospel when it was almost hidden in Romish Darkness; so no less truly was Samuel Marsden raised up in this Southern Hemisphere, and admirably fitted for the work, and made the honourable instrument of diffusing the light of that same Gospel, and of bringing it to bear upon the darkness of Heathenism in New Zealand and the Isles of the Sea; --and upon the darkness, no less real, of the depravity of society in early Australia.

God gave him GREAT ENERGY OF CHARACTER AND FIRMNESS: without this, he never could have accomplished one half of that which he has done. Whenever he had an object in view, which was worthy of his strenuous pursuit, nothing stopped him in his efforts to attain it. His earlier career in this Colony might furnish many examples of this: one we may select:--There was a time when that class of depraved creatures who are now confined in the Female Factory--before that building was erected--were allowed to find quarters for themselves: you may imagine the floods of depravity, by which Parramatta and its neighbourhood were thereby inundated. Zeal for the honour of his God, and desire for the success of his Ministry, to which this permitted wickedness formed so serious an obstacle, roused the energetic spirit of Mr. Marsden to protest against this: he was disregarded: for a while, the Government, both at Home and in the Colony, turned a de. if ear to his remonstrances; and repeated rebukes for his interference seemed the only reward for his persevering efforts.

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But at length he succeeded: the Factory was built; and the monster of colonial depravity was thus checked, by the cutting off of one, at least, of its hydra heads.

There was, again, a period, in his early Ministry, when almost all the Civil and Military Office-bearers in the Colony were accustomed, in disregard of the sanctities of marriage, to live in a state of loose concubinage: some, too, had the audacity in wickedness, to place their concubines at the head of their tables. Public opinion at that day scarcely opposed the practice; but there was one, at least, who opposed it: there was one who did discountenance depravity. He would not visit such men: he protested against their doings: of course, he was hated and persecuted. But steadily did he persist in his struggle, for the good of society--for the honour of the Religion which he professed; and, doubtless, he had his reward, if not in the reformation of the people, yet certainly in the approval of his conscience and the approbation of his God. We are scarcely competent now, in happier circumstances, to appreciate fully the decision of character, the firmness of purpose, which enabled him so long and so Steadily to maintain "the war of the many with one." We shall see, presently, the principle from which it all arose.

Yet, though of a decided and most persevering character, he possessed, at the same time, a truly catholic spirit. His was no narrow and sectarian mind: though he loved the Church-of-England well--and he was right to do so, for she well deserves the affection of her sons-- yet he also loved all those whom he looked upon as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, by whatever name they called themselves. His long and steady support of the London Missionary Society, which is in the hands, for the most part, of Dissenters from the English Church--his liberal pecuniary assistance to the building of the first Presbyterian Chapel in this Colony--his readiness at all times to forward, with his advice or his money, the common principles of Protestant Christianity -- sufficiently shew that he loved the Image of his Saviour, wherever he could discover it; and would further the cause of that Saviour, wherever it might lead him.

And where shall we find a man, so ready as he was, to assist the poor and the distressed? Whoever was deservedly an object of compassion, never applied to him in vain. Perhaps, indeed, one of the weak points in his character--for he had his weaknesses -- lay here: he was too open to the tale of feigned distress: the emotions of his heart sometimes outstripped the dictates of his judgment; and, in consequence, he became the dupe, in too many instances, of hypocrisy and fraud.

Malice has been heard to say, that he was greedy of this world's wealth; and Scorn has pointed to his possessions, as a proof of the allegation. Never was there a falser accusation! God, indeed, was pleased to give him abundance: but if there was one man who sought riches less than others did; if there was one man who was more indifferent about them, when possessed, than others were; if there was one man who diffused them more widely, for the good of the Colony or the benefit of the poor, than others did--that man was samuel Marsden.

As a Parish Priest, his labours were worthy of the best days of the English Church. You can well remember him, as having faithfully preached to you the Word of God. Clearly did he lay before you the whole counsel of God. Man was represented by him as condemned and helpless; unable to justify himself, wholly or in part, by any works of righteousness which he can do--God, as too pure to look upon iniquity without abhorrence, and yet too merciful to leave sinners in their sad estate without providing a refuge for them--Christ, as all in all to the sinner; as wisdom to enlighten him, as righteousness to justify him, as sanctification to make him holy in heart and life, as complete redemption, from bondage to sin and death, to the glorious inheritance of heaven--the Holy Spirit of God, as the only author of aught that is good in the soul--Faith, as the only means of applying the salvation of the Gospel to the case of the individual sinner--Justification by Faith--the necessity of Regeneration-- Holiness indispensable: all these were represented by your departed Minister as the vital Doctrines of the Gospel; and the mutual bearing and connexion of every one was clearly shewn. And this he has been doing for nearly forty-five years! Oh, indeed, you are under a fearful responsibility to God, the Judge of all, for the use which you have made, for the profit which you have derived from a Ministry so faithful and so long! Look, I entreat you, into your own souls; and say, Are

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you partakers of that faith which he preached? Have you renounced sin and worldliness? Are you living by faith on that Saviour, who thus, in the preaching of your Minister, has been evidently set forth, crucified, among you?

But among the New Zealanders may be found the brightest trophies of what God has wrought by the hands of this truly Apostolic Man. It is now thirty years since he first called the attention of the people of God in England to the miserable condition, in a moral sense, of that fine people. After a while, Missionaries were settled there: they struggled on through years of difficulty and danger: their numbers were increased: God blessed their patient labours: Christianity secured a footing; and now, by labours originated and upheld by your late Minister, such a torch has been lighted in New Zealand, as, by the grace of God, shall never be extinguished.

Oh! words are poor, to describe the deep intensity of the interest which Marsden felt in the prosperity of the New-Zealand Mission. He loved it from his soul. A mother's fondness for her babe, a bridegroom's devotedness to his bride, or whatever image you may select to express ardour and constancy of affection, may be taken to represent his devotion to that Cause. Fourteen times has he passed the seas, in going and returning to advance the work: his money was spent--his time was given--his house was opened--if by any means he could urge it forward: through life, it was his passion: the first conversation, and the last which I ever had with him, were on this subject: he spoke of it almost in death, and doubtless speaks of it in glory. If those who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever, the glorious crown of the sainted Marsden shall shine with many a radiant gem, gathered in his Missionary Labours in the wilds of New Zealand

Of the closing scene of his earthly career I have not much to say. He spake but little, though quite enough to shew that the Saviour, whom he served through life, was with him in the time of trial. A simple remark was made to him, by a bystander, on the value of a good hope in Christ, in the hour of need. "Yes," said he, "that hope is indeed precious to me now!" And on the following evening--his last on earth--he was heard repeating the words, "precious! precious!" as if still in the same train of thought, which that remark had suggested. Soon after this, inflammation having reached the brain, his spirit was released, and he suffered no more.

This delineation is introduced in the "Gleaner," a new Publication of the Church Missionary Society, with the following notice:--

The late Rev. Samuel Marsden may not improperly be designated the apostle of the islands of the southern ocean.

His faith was simple--his zeal ardent-- his measures wisely planned; and prosecuted, through grace, with an energy which no opposition could subdue, and a perseverance which no difficulties or discouragement could weary or abate. And great was the honour which the Head of the Church put upon His faithful servant, for he abundantly prospered the work of his hands. His end was peace; and many, in generations to come, will rise up to call him blessed.

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