Samuel Marsden. Preacher, Pastor, Magistrate & Missionary is an account of the life of Rev Samuel Marsden (1765-1838), second Chaplain to New South Wales, illuminated by his sermons. Author: David B. Pettett.
Influenced by his Methodist roots and by members of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England, especially Rev Charles Simeon of Cambridge, Samuel Marsden was appointed the second Chaplain to the Penal Colony of New South Wales. His Christian supporters saw him as the second Missionary to the South Seas, after Rev Richard Johnson. Part of his duties involved presiding as a magistrate, which became one of the causes of long-standing controversy around his name.
Marsden's missionary concerns included some frustrating efforts to take the gospel to the indigenous people of New South Wales, and an important role in encouraging the missionaries of the London Missionary Society and overseeing their mission in Tahiti. However, Marsden's great passion was to reach the Maori of New Zealand. After years of preparation, he commenced the ministry of some lay settlers of the Church Missionary Society with a sermon preached in the Bay of Islands on Christmas Day 1814. He actively supported this mission until he died.
In New South Wales Marsden fell out of favour with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, especially after a sermon he preached on the death of Judge-Advocate Ellis Bent in 1815. An earlier controversy had arisen with the Governor's Colonial Secretary, who wrote an article attacking Marsden and his missionary enterprises under the pseudonym 'Philo Free'. Marsden charged him with libel, the first such action in New South Wales.
Throughout his life in New South Wales, Marsden was Pastor and Preacher at St John's Church, Parramatta. His sermons show his concern for the people of New South Wales amongst the difficulties and temptations presented by its nature as a brutal Penal Colony.
Despite his human weaknesses, and despite the controversies that surround him, Marsden's sermons show a man who saw himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, seeking to point others to Jesus Christ, so that they might not only live well in the present age, but also have a share in the kingdom of God yet to come.
David Pettett's brief account of Samuel Marsden is well-researched. Previous scholarship has largely ignored Marsden's sermons. By paying attention to his preaching, Marsden's life is illuminated and some of the controversies surrounding him receive nuance, or even correction.
David Pettett's treatment of Marsden shows us what was at the heart of his preaching. The focus on Samuel Marsden as an evangelical preacher in the early colony helps to redress some of the negativity about the man by revealing his theological and pastoral concern for those he addressed. Everyone interested in the influence of evangelicalism in the early colony will benefit from reading this account. Colin Bale, Vice Principal Moore College Until now biographers of Samuel Marsden have ignored the main source of evidence about him - his sermons. David Pettett has made a close study of all his sermons and transcribed them for the benefit of us all. In this valuable and concise account surprising new light is thrown on the most controversial of Christ's ambassadors in Australian history. Marsden will continue to have his critics, but now his own motivation will be better understood, his pastor's heart for his people appreciated, and his strategic approach to mission admired. How David Pettett uses the sermons will also be admired, especially his reconstruction of his most famous sermon, that which he preached at the Bay of Islands on Christmas Day 1814. Associate Professor Stuart Piggin, Assoc Prof - Ancient History. Macquarie University Though a much-maligned figure in Australian history, Samuel Marsden had at least been seen more positively in New Zealand. But, as this engaging short study shows, Marsden was the same man, driven by the gospel imperative to attempt much, which he did with all his might but with inevitable human flaws and weaknesses. Particularly marked in David Pettett's approach is his meticulous research, courageous tackling of very contentious issues, the careful contextualization of his subject and his balanced judgements. His deep knowledge of, and careful analysis of Marsden's sermons give great richness to his recreation of Marsden's spiritual and moral universe. Professor Malcolm Prentis, Honorary Professor of Australian Catholic University I'm grateful to David Pettett for his deep insight into Marsden, as a man, a passionate missionary and a controversial magistrate in his own times, times that were vastly different to our own. Every insight is built on the original documents and especially Marsden's sermons. This is a beautifully balanced account of Marsden, his faults and his great achievements. Rev. Canon Bruce Morrison, Rector St. John's Anglican Regional Cathedral Parramatta