Friday, 27 July 2018


A Foretaste of What Is To Come

We have recently finished reading William Williams' Christianity Among The New Zealanders.  Our edition was published by Banner of Truth Trust in 1989.  This, in turn, was a republication of the original, first published in 1867.  William Williams was the brother of Henry Williams.

In our view, the missionary annals ought to be required reading for every NZ Christian.   

Both of these stalwart warriors of the Kingdom of God arrived in New Zealand towards the end of 1823.  Both were men of great faith and faithfulness, along with their wives and children.  Many times their collectives lives would be threatened over the next 40 years or so.  They did not deflect from their duty or course during that time.

William Williams was the more scholarly of the two brothers.  Eventually, he was appointed Bishop of Waiapu, an area stretching from Tauranga down to Napier.

At the end of his account of Christianity among the New Zealand Maori he asks the question, What of the future?  He had lived to see staggering progress of the Gospel amongst Maori.  He also witnessed what we might call the Corinthian phase--the first falling away of many from the faith--due to increasing exposure to migrants from the UK.  Many of these folk were more Victorian than Christian, more nominal than true believers.
  The most basic religious doctrine of the majority of these mass settler migrations was that the Christian faith was OK, but it was important not to get too serious about it.  Christian nominalism was the new normal.

When Maori were first exposed to Christian nominalism, many fell away; others became more committed than ever.  Then came the King Movement, the Maori Wars, the Hau Haus, the murder of Volkner, and the expropriation of Maori lands.

Williams concludes his book acknowledging the falling away of Maori from the faith.
Great numbers have fallen away; but it is a cheering fact that there are twelve native clergymen, supported by the contribution of their flocks, amounting to upwards of three thousand pounds, who are labouring with diligence and zeal to lead their countrymen in the right path.  The present perios is the sifting-time of the Church, a sifting which will be for its benefit.  [Christianity Among the New Zealanders (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), p. 377.]
This sifting continues.  The Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand is less a matter of "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war" and is more akin to a group of rock climbers carefully picking out the next foot or handhold across a sheer rock face.  Yet we are convinced that Williams, were he alive today, would remain a merry warrior.  Why?  Because the course of the Kingdom of God upon the earth is to measured by millennia, not a cluster of generations.

Williams knew the Scriptures.  He was steeped in the promises of God, and concludes his account by referring to the book of Daniel.
Much has been fulfilled [in that prophecy] , and what yet remains must also be accomplished. . . . It is added: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."

That kingdom will have within it a countless multitude from all people and nations and kindreds and languages; and there, too, will be found the New Zealand Church, composed of a good company of those who once were savages, but, who, having been called out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel, will be made partakers of the heavenly inheritance.  [Ibid., p. 378f.]

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