Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

·

on board, the flames in the mountains were extinguished, and my seducer left me. Then was the prey taken from the hand of the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered.' My fears were at an end, and with joy and gratitude I approached my kind deliverer to receive the ring again; but he refused to return it, and spoke to this effect: If you should be entrusted with this ring again, you would very soon bring yourself into the same distress; you are not able to keep it, but I will preserve it for you, and whenever it is needful will produce it in your be half.' Upon this I awoke, in a state of mind not to be described I could hardly eat, or sleep, or transact my necessary business for two or three days; but the impression soon wore off, and in a little time I totally forgot it; and I think it hardly occurred to my mind again till several years afterwards."

Nothing remarkable happened in the following part of that voyage. Mr. N. returned home in December, 1743, and, repeating his visit to Kent, protracted his stay in the same imprudent manner he had done before. This so disappointed his father's designs for his interest, as almost induced him to disown his son. Before any thing suitable offered again, this thoughtless son, unmindful of the consequences of appearing in a check shirt, was marked by a lieutenant of the Harwich man of war, who immediately impressed and carried him on board a tender. This was at a critical juncture, as the French fleets were hovering upon our coast: so that his father was incapable of procuring his release. A few days after he was sent on board the Harwich at the Nore. Here a new scene of life was presented, and for about a month much hardship endured. As a war was daily expected, his father was willing he should remain in the navy, and procured him a recommendation to the captain, who sent him upon the quarter deck as a midshipman. He might now have had ease and respect, had it not been for his unsettled mind and indifferent behaviour. The companions he met with here completed the ruin of his principles; though he affected to talk of virtue, and preserved some decency, yet his delight and habitual practice was wickedness.

His principal companion was a person of talents and observation, an expert and plausible infidel, whose zeal was equal to his address. "I have been told," says Mr. N.," that afterwards he was overtaken in a voyage from Lisbon in a violent storm; the vessel and people

escaped, but a great sea broke on board, and swept him into eternity." Being fond of this man's company, Mr. N. aimed to discover what smattering of reading he had his companion, observing that Mr. N. had not lost all the restraints of conscience, at first spoke in favour of religion; and having gained Mr. N.'s confidence, and perceiving his attachment to the Characteristics, he soon convinced his pupil that he had never understood that book. By objections and arguments Mr. N.'s depraved heart was soon gained. He plunged into infidelity with all his spirit; and like an unwary sailor, who quits his post just before a rising storm, the hopes and comforts of the Gospel were renounced at the very time when every other comfort was about to fail.

In December, 1744, the Harwich was in the Downs, bound to the East Indies. The captain gave Mr. N. leave to go on shore for a day; but, with his usual inconsideration, and following the dictates of a restless passion, he went to take a last leave of the object with which he was so infatuated. Little satisfaction attended the interview in such circumstances, and on new year's day he returned to the ship. The captain was so highly displeased at this rash step, that it occasioned ever after the loss of his favour.

At length they sailed from Spithead, with a very large fleet. They put in Torbay, with a change of wind, but sailed the next day, on its becoming fair. Several of the fleet were lost at leaving the place, but the following night the whole fleet was greatly endangered upon the coast of Cornwall by a storm from the southward. The ship on which Mr. N. was aboard escaped unhurt, though several times in danger of being run down by other vessels; but many suffered much: this occasioned their putting back to Plymouth.

While they lay at Plymouth, Mr. N. heard that his father, who had an interest in some of the ships lately lost, was come down to Torbay. He thought, that, if he could see his father, he might easily be introduced into a service which would be better than pursuing a long and uncertain voyage to the East Indies. It was his habit in those unhappy days, never to deliberate; as soon as the thought occurred, he resolved to leave the ship at all events: he did so, and in the worst manner possible. He was sent one day in the boat to prevent others from desertion, but betrayed his trust, and deserted himself: not

knowing which road to take, and fearing to inquire, lest he should be suspected, yet having some general idea of the country, he found, after he had travelled some miles, that he was on the road to Dartmouth. That day, and part of the next, every thing seemed to go on smoothly. He walked fast, and thought to have seen his father in about two hours, when he was met by a small party of soldiers, whom he could not avoid or deceive: they brought him back to Plymouth, through the streets of which he proceeded guarded like a felon. Full of indignation, shame, and fear, he was confined two days in the guard-house, then sent on ship-board, and kept awhile in irons; next he was publicly stript and whipt, degraded from his office, and all his former companions forbidden to show him the least favour, or even to speak to him. As midshipman he had been entitled to command, in which (being sufficiently haughty and vain) he had not been temperate; but was now in his turn brought down to a level with the lowest, and exposed to the insults of all.

The state of his mind at this time can only be properly expressed in his own words :

"As my present situation was uncomfortable, my future prospects were still worse; the evils I suffered were likely to grow heavier every day. While my catastrophe was recent, the officers and my quondam brethren were something disposed to screen me from ill usage; but during the little time I remained with them afterwards, I found them cool very fast in their endeavours to protect me. Indeed, they could not avoid such conduct without running a great risk of sharing with me: for the captain, though in general a humane man, who behaved very well to the ship's company, was almost implacable in his resentment, and took several occasions to show it, and the voyage was expected to be (as it proved) for five years. Yet nothing I either felt or feared distressed me so much as to see myself thus forcibly torn away from the object of my affections, under a great improbability of seeing her again, and a much greater of returning in such a manner as would give me hope of seeing her mine.

"Thus I was as miserable on all hands as could well be imagined. My breast was filled with the most excruciating passions, eager desire, bitter rage, and black despair. Every hour exposed me to some new insult and hardship, with no hope of relief or mitigation; no

friend to take my part, nor to listen to my complaint. Whether I looked inward or outward, I could perceive nothing but darkness and misery. I think no case, except that of a conscience wounded by the wrath of God, could be more dreadful than mine; I cannot express with what wishfulness and regret I cast my last looks upon the English shore; I kept my eyes fixed upon it, till, the ship's distance increasing, it insensibly disappeared; and when I could see it no longer, I was tempted to throw myself into the sea, which (according to the wicked system I had adopted) would put a period to all my sorrows at "" But the secret hand of God restrained me.'

once.

During his passage to Madeira, Mr. N. describes himself as a prey to the most gloomy thoughts; though he had deserved all, and more than all he had met with from the captain, yet pride suggested that he had been grossly injured; "and this so far," says he, "wrought upon my wicked heart, that I actually formed designs against his life, and that was one reason which made me willing to prolong my own. I was sometimes divided between the two, not thinking it practicable to effect both. The Lord had now to appearance given me up to judicial hardness; I was capable of any thing. I had not the least fear of God before my eyes, nor (so far as I remember) the least sensibility of conscience. I was possessed with so strong a spirit of delusion, that I believed my own lie, and was firmly persuaded, that after death I should cease to be. Yet the Lord preserved me! Some intervals of sober reflection would at times take place when I have chosen death rather than life, a ray of hope would come in (though there was little probability for such a hope) that I should yet see better days, that I might return to England, and have my wishes crowned, if I did not wilfully throw myself away. In a word, my love to Mrs. N. was now the only restraint I had left: though I neither feared God, nor regarded man, I could not bear that she should think meanly of me when I was dead."

[ocr errors]

Mr. N. had now been at Madeira some time; the business of the fleet being completed, they were to sail the following day on that memorable morning he happened to be late in bed, and would have continued to sleep, but that an old companion, a midshipman, came down, between jest and earnest, and bid him rise. As he did not immediately comply, the midshipman cut down

the hammock in which he lay; this obliged him to dress himself; and though very angry, he durst not resent it, but was little aware that this person, without design, was a special instrument of God's providence. Mr. N. said little, but went upon deck, where he saw a man putting his own clothes into a boat, and informed Mr. N. he was going to leave the ship. Upon inquiry, he found that two men from a Guinea ship, which lay near them, had entered on board the Harwich, and that the commodore (the late Sir George Pocock) had ordered the captain to send two others in their room. Inflamed with this information, Mr. N. requested that the boat might be detained a few minutes; he then entreated the lieutenants to intercede with the captain, that he might be dismissed upon this occasion: though he had formerly behaved ill to these officers, they were moved with pity, and were disposed to serve him. The captain, who had refused to exchange him at Plymouth, though requested by Admiral Medley, was easily prevailed with now. In little more than half an hour from his being asleep in bed, he found "himself discharged, and safe on board another ship: the events depending upon this change, will show it to have been the most critical and important.

The ship he now entered was bound to Sierra Leone, and the adjacent parts of what is called the windward coast of Africa. The commander knew his father, received him kindly, and made professions of assistance; and probably would have been his friend, if, instead of profiting by his former errors, he had not pursued a course, if possible, worse. He was under some restraint on board the Harwich, but being now among strangers, he could sin without disguise. "I well remember,' says he, "that while I was passing from one ship to the other, I rejoiced in the exchange, with this reflection, that I might now be as abandoned as I pleased, without any control; and from this time I was exceedingly vile indeed, little, if any thing short of that animated description of an almost irrecoverable state, which we have in 2 Peter ii, 14. I not only sinned with a high hand myself, but made it my study to tempt and seduce others upon every occasion: nay, I eagerly sought occasion, sometimes to my own hazard and hurt." By this conduct he soon forfeited the favour of his captain: for, besides being careless and disobedient, upon some imagined affront, he employed his mischievous wit in making a

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »