25th December 1835

Darwin Beagle Diary
Christmas day — In a few more days the fourth year of our absence from England will be completed. Our first Christmas day was spent at Plymouth; the second at St Martins Cove near Cape Horn; the third at Port Desire in Patagonia; the fourth at anchor in the peninsula of Tres Montes; this fifth here, & the next I trust in Providence again in England.

We attended Divine Service in the Chapel of Pahia; part of the Service was read in English & part in the New Zealand language.

As far as I was able to understand, the greatest proportion of the population in this northern part of the island profess Christianity. It is curious that even the religion of those who do not, is altered & is now partly Christian, partly Heathen. — Moreover, so excellent is the Christian faith, that the outward conduct of the believers is said most decidedly to have been improved by its doctrines, which are to a certain extent generally known. — It is however beyond doubt that much immorality still exists; that there are very many who would not hesitate to commit the heavy crime of killing a slave for a trifling offence; polygamy is still common, indeed I believe general. — We did not hear of any recent act of cannibalism; but Mr Stokes found on a small Island burnt human bones strewed round an old fire-place; these remnants, however, of some quiet banquet might have been lying there for several years. — Notwithstanding the above facts it is probable that the moral state of the people will rapidly improve. — Mr Busby mentioned one pleasing anecdote, as a proof of the sincerity of some at least of those who profess Christianity; one of his young men left him, who had been accustomed to read prayers to the rest of the servants. Some weeks afterwards, happening to pass late in the evening by an outhouse, he saw & heard one of his men reading with difficulty by the light of the fire, the Bible to the rest; after this the party knelt & prayed; in their prayers they mentioned Mr Busby & his family & the Missionaries, each separately in his respective district. — Mr Busby then went in & told them how glad he was to see how they were employed: — they replied they had done so ever since the first young man had gone, & so should continue.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Being Christmas-day, several of our party attended Divine service at Paihia, where Mr. Baker officiated. Very few natives were present; but all the respectable part of the English community had assembled. Instead of performing the whole service first in one language, and afterwards in the other, as at Otaheite, the two entire services were mixed, and the whole extended to such a length that had even the most eloquent divine occupied the pulpit, his hearers could scarcely have helped feeling fatigued. Mr. Baker appeared to be more fluent in the language of New Zealand, than in his own, a fortunate circumstance for the natives, though not for the English who attend his church. In the mere glimpse which I had of the missionary body at New Zealand, it appeared to me that they rather undervalued their white congregations. They say, "We are sent to the heathen, it is to their improvement that every effort should be directed." "This is true," may be replied; "but does not the example of respectable settlers, or visitors, assist the influence of missionaries?" Would not the natives take notice if foreigners whom they see in the land refused, generally speaking, to conform in their habits and conduct, to the principles so earnestly insisted upon by the missionaries? But unless Divine service is performed in a manner which will, at the very least, increase respect for it, and give rise to no feelings of slight towards those who, from the nature of their highly responsible office, are expected to perform it tolerably well—it does not seem likely that such as are only sojourners in the land, will be seen at the church as often as might be desirable; thus a part of their example, so beneficial to the great cause, will perhaps be lost.

A very correct musical ear seems to be as general among the people here, as among those of Otaheite. The responses of thirty natives, women and men, were made so simultaneously, and so perfectly in harmony, that I could no more distinguish the different voices, than I could those of a number of good choristers singing together. Their singing was equally melodious, yet neither I nor others were disposed to think it equal to that of Otaheite.

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