The million-peopled city
In A.D. 1852.
This Report commences with the general observations:- "The field of my labour consists of old sailors and marines. The vast majority of them have sunk deep in depravity. This is not to be wondered at when the temptations to which they were exposed during the war, both abroad and at home, are considered. They would almost invariably spend all their money among the worst of women, and in a few weeks what had taken them years to earn was gone. These practices have grown with their growth and strengthened with their strength. Drunkenness and swearing have become so habitual to them that they scarcely regard them as crimes. When I have remonstrated with them on account of these sins, the frequent reply has been,-' We hope God will make allowance for sailors. We have always been used to it, and cannot give it up very easy.' But, notwithstanding the depth of depravity into which many of these old men have fallen, there are among them many living monuments of the power of Divine grace, showing that there is nothing impos- sible with God, but that he can soften the hardest heart and subdue the most perverse will."
As illustrations of that year's usefulness of the missionary among this class, a case is first of all related of an old pensioner who had been 19 years in Her Majesty's service and seen several engagements. Five years since the missionary found him most ignorant and unconcerned as to all matters of reli- gion. He was also a great swearer. His wife was induced to attend the familiar meetings for prayer and exposition of
|the, which were made useful to her. She then endeavoured to prevail on her husband to attend, but to no purpose. He only jeered at her, and cursed and swore most awfully. '" Do you think," he would say, "I am such a fool as to leave this comfortable fire to go to hear that fellow?" At length he was, however, induced to accompany his wife for once. The subject was, true Christians being the temples of the Holy Ghost,-" As the Lord hath said, I will walk in them and dwell in them; they shall be my people, and I will be their God." On his return home he fell into a fit of passion, and said, " He wondered the people did not turn the fellow out of the desk, for he actually told them that God Almighty would come down and dwell in a sinner's heart. He must take us to be a set of fools to believe such nonsense as that." After a while he came, however, a second time to the meeting. On that occasion the subject was the new birth, from . The words, "Ye must be born again," came home to his heart; and he returned home, no more to curse and swear, but to express true concern and sorrow for his past course. He became, from that time, a regular attendant on the means of grace, gave up his old companions, and, after careful examination, was admitted a communicant, with his wife, at one of the chapels of the town. He regu- larly since subscribes his penny a-week to .
A second case reported, as having occurred that year, is that of an aged pensioner who had been 15 years in the Hospital, and who had been also 15 years in active service; but who on his discharge, in , had turned coachman, when he sunk deeper into sin than ever. He at length got into prison for theft. When first met with by the mission- ary, in the Hospital, he was actually as ignorant of spiritual things as an Hottentot. He could not even read. Now, to employ his own nautical image, "the Saviour has hauled down the devil's colours and hoisted up his own." His
|mind has become enlightened, he has felt the evil of sin, and he is resting his hopes only on . His life is altogether changed. He has become a communicant at the . To testify his gratitude to the missionary, he sub- scribes his penny a-week towards his support, and keeps the room in which the meeting is held clean, free of charge. He is never absent from his post there.
Then comes the case of a sick pensioner, visited in the Infirmary. He appeared impressed, by frequent visits to his bed-side; but, knowing the deceitfulness of professions at such times, little account was made of it by the missionary. At length the man recovers. The impression remained. Two years have passed away, and have not erased it. He has, since his recovery, become a communicant, and in all things he adorns the Gospel by his life. His language is that of constant thankfulness that God, in his mercy, afflicted him.
Then comes a case of a different order. A very old pensioner, who had lived beyond the three score years and ten allotted to man, had in his youth been the subject of religious impressions. But when his desires to go to sea were gratified, these were all forgotten, and departed, like the early cloud and the morning dew. He soon became, like seafaring men in general, careless and indifferent about religion, and this was not disturbed, even by the imminent perils of warfare, when others around him were cut down in quick succession. Five years since the missionary met with him. He is now the subject of the same religious impres- sions as at first, in his early life. For the past five years he has evidenced the change which has occurred to him. This year he has become a communicant at the chapel. He is most indefatigable in his efforts to benefit his cabin-mates, and never allows sin in them without reproof. He also subscribes to the Mission, like the others.
Passing over the two next cases, in both of which the
|pensioners visited became communicants, a case is next recorded of an aged pensioner, whose life had previously been of a more moral character than is usual with that class. For four years he had attended the Meetings of the mis- sionary, seldom missing any of them, although they are nine each week. The change in this man does not appear so great, but his own testimony is that it is as entire as marvellous. During the year he was received as a com- municant at the Independent chapel of the town. How interesting is it to observe such changes effected at a period of life so very advanced, when habits ordinarily become fixed, and the mind of those who during a long life have continued irreligious, become callous !
Another poor old man, on the borders of the grave, is next referred to, apparently plucked that year as a brand from the burning. He had been altogether, in the Merchant and in , 41 years at sea, and had been shipwrecked several times, yet mercifully preserved from a watery grave. It would be tedious to descend to particulars in all these individual cases. Suffice it to say, that from being ignorant and careless, he is now in earnest to secure the salvation of his soul. His life is exemplary, and the testimony of those around him is, " We wish we were like him." His pittance is very small, but out of it twopence a week is cheerfully and voluntarily paid to the Mission, by whose instrumentality he considers he has been so richly benefited.
Three other cases follow of an equally important and satisfactory character; and two very happy deaths of pen- sioners are also recorded, as having occurred during the year, in both of which the dying men most fervently blessed God that ever a missionary was sent to visit the Hospital.
The average attendance of the pensioners at the nine weekly Meetings is 22 in the morning, and 80 in the
|evening. The old men themselves pay the rent of the room, amounting to 71. a-year. The morning Meetings are held from nine to ten o'clock, except on Sundays; and the evening Meetings on three evenings in the week, from seven to eight.
About a thousand tracts are given away by the missionary every month among the pensioners. These are very grate- fully received by the vast majority of them. There is also every reason to believe that they are read. In some cases they may be made a blessing, where the word spoken would fail. The following case, which occurred during that year will serve as an illustration:
One tobacco day, as it is called, that is, one day when the men receive their allowance of tobacco, an old pensioner put into the missionary's hands, while he was distributing tracts, a paper, to be read by him when he got home. On opening it, a shilling was found within it, and the following sentences were written, " Sir, I am much obliged to you for your most noble and generous acts, and for your kind tracts to teach us the way of God. I am truly sensible that I am a sinner before Him. I cannot go, however, to hear his Word, as I am very deaf. But, thanks to God, I can read the tracts; and if you please to accept of this trifle, you will oblige your humble servant."