Marsden, Samuel

Marsden, Samuel one of the noblest missionary workers the Church of England ever sent out to battle for Christ, the noted Australian chaplain and friend of the Maori, was born of humble parentage in 1764, and was educated at the free grammar-school at Hull, by the celebrated English divine Dr. Joseph Milner. Samuel began life as a tradesman at Leeds. He had been converted under Wesleyan preaching, had joined the Methodists, and belonged to their society for some time, but, having higher aspirations than the mercantile profession, he entered the English Church to secure a collegiate training. He was placed at St. Joseph's College, Cambridge, and there educated by the Elland Society, whose object it was to aid poor young men having the ministry in view. Before Marsden had even taken his degree, he was offered the chaplaincy to New South Wales. At first he was very adverse to accepting it, but, finding that there was no one who could so well fill this difficult post, he consented, and in the spring of 1793 was ordained. Soon after he married Elizabeth Triston, a very worthy lady, who did much to aid him in his missionary labors. In 1794 he arrived at Paramatta, his new home. Early in the 17th century England had adopted penal transportation. The newly-acquired territories in America were then used for this purpose, and, as we know, oftentimes aided in the propagation of white slavery. The Revolution, and the subsequent establishment of independence in the colonies, obliged England to discontinue this practice of disposing of criminals. But the great fear entertained in England that the country would be overrun with crime, led the government of George Ill to establish a penal colony in Australia. About seven years previous to Marsden's arrival there the first convict ship had been sent out with its living freight, and yet up to this time religious training was unknown. It little mattered to England what became of the convict, so long as he was well out of her way. A powerful military force was required to keep this mass of corrupt humanity in subjection, and, instead of being benefited, they were rather hardened in their sins. For teaching the Gospel the Church furnished only two ministers — for soldiers, convicts, settlers, and all. Marsden was one of these, and, the senior preacher failing in health, he was soon left to struggle on alone. Although severely tried by domestic affliction, he was not found wanting. At that time the custom prevailed there and in England for the parish priest to administer justice as well as give spiritual advice. The son of a Yorkshire farmer could not be expected to be very conversant with law, but good sense and a clear perception of justice came to the rescue. His farming education, however, served him well, for, receiving a grant of land, and thirteen convicts to till it, as part payment for his services, he made it the model farm in New South Wales, and from the profits was enabled to establish schools and missions. A rebellious spirit manifesting itself among the convicts, Marsden sailed for England, after an absence of fourteen years, to appeal to the home government. His main object was to secure a grant permitting the convicts' friends to go out with them to the penal colony. This was denied him, but his representation that the convicts ought to be instructed in trades was well received.

During his visit to England Mr. Marsden also laid the foundation of the missions to New Zealand, and prepared to become the apostle of the Maori race. Before leaving Australia he had had some intercourse with these tribes, which he found to be of a much higher type of humanity than the Australian native. Indeed, they possessed such a spirit of enterprise and curiosity that they would often visit the island of Australia, and Marsden is said to have entertained thirty at one time. He vainly endeavored to obtain help from the Church Missionary Society. No clergyman could be found to undertake the mission to New Zealand, but two laymen, William Hall and John King, consented to act as pioneers. These two good men accompanied Marsden to Australia in August, 1809. They were soon followed by Thomas Kendall. To transfer these lay missionaries to their intended field of labor, Marsden conceived the plan of fitting out a missionary ship, but, failing to interest outside parties, he finally purchased a small one at his own expense. This was the Active, the first of the mission ships that now carry the Gospel to every part of the globe. Marsden accompanied this expedition, and was kindly welcomed by the natives. His method in founding missions to propagate Christianity was unlike that of Eliot, to begin with faith, and then to look for civilization. He rather thought that civilization prepared the way for the acceptance of faith, and, as his teachers were laymen, he employed them only in laying the foundations of a Christian civilization. Marsden frequently repeated his visits, and in many ways aided the enterprise. On his fourth visit he took out with him the Rev. Henry Williams, who afterwards became bishop of a Maori district. It was now nine years since he had first landed here, and, in spite of so many disappointments and so much opposition, he found the condition of the natives greatly improved. A Wesleyan mission had been established at Wingaroa, under Mr. Leigh. During his two months' stay he endeavored to persuade the natives to adopt a fixed form of government, and advised the missionaries to collect a vocabulary, and arrange a grammar that might aid in future translations. In 1838 he made his seventh and last visit. He was now seventy-two years of age. Wherever he went he was greeted as the friend of the Maori. He had always hoped that this intelligent people might be Christianized, and it gladdened his heart to see the improvements they had made. Sunday was generally observed among the natives, and polygamy and cannibalism were fast diminishing, and there was every token that the apostle of New Zealand had conquered a country and people for the Church of God. Marsden was possessed of a will and force of character that enabled him to accomplish whatever he undertook. He died May 12, 1838. See Miss Charlotte M. Yonge, Pioneers and Founders, p. 216-240. SEE NEW ZEALAND; SEE SELWYN.

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