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reached his conscience and heart, and he left England a changed man,
" to live no longer to himself, but to Him who died for him and rose again.” Here is a practical commentary on the text, which has been the Society's motto—“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days."
In the year 1844, several members of the Brazen Committeeviz., the present Marquess of (tben Lord Henry) Cholmondeley, and the late Admiral the Earl of Waldegrave, Admiral Sir Henry Hope (then Capt. Hope, of Endymion celebrity), and Capt. Elliot (founder of the Sailors' Home), deeply impressed with the spiritual destitution of the immense seafaring population on the Thames, met for prayer, and to consider what further steps could be taken to meet the desperate need of sailors entering the Port. They determined that if the sailors would not come to the floating church, the Gospel should be carried to them by a cruising church. Their prayers were shortly answered by the Admiralty placing at their disposal a cutter named the Swan, which had seen service in the Baltic. She was forthwith specially fitted, and with a resident chaplain, licensed by the Bishop of London, and a crew of five pious men, she sailed forth—as the old Report expresses it* to do battle for the Lord of Hosts against the powers of darkness for the soul of the sailor.” For many years the Swan was a familiar object as she cruised between London and Gravesend, or lay alongside the tiers of collier brigs waiting to be unloaded in Bugsby's Reach.
The work increased and extended greatly, and the services of the staff being required in various directions, it was found necessary to supplement the Swan by two smaller vessels, in which a Chaplain or Lay-Missionary cruised up or down the river to visit the large emigrant or convict ships, while the “ Church” remained at her moorings.
Ultimately the construction of vast docks, with twenty miles of wharves, furnishing accommodation for 1,200 vessels, totally changed the conditions of river traffic; and in 1874, the Swan being no longer seaworthy, was gratefully returned to H.M. dockyard, and since that time the visitation has been conducted in boats from the shore. The Swan cannot, however, be dismissed without a tribute to the long and faithful services of her master, William Hancock. In 1844 he was coxswain to the late Capt. Charles Rowley, R.N., on board H.M.S. St. Vincent, and was on his strong recommendation appointed to the command of the “ Thames Church.” He is now pensioned, but continues to attend the monthly prayer meetings, and manifest a keen interest in the work in which he was at one time so much blessed.' Capt. Rowley himself, when residing near Greenwich,
1 Hancock was a quarter-master on board the Dreadnought between the time he served under Capt. Rowley and his taking command of the
frequently visited the hospital ship Dreadnought, and was the means of several conversions among the quartermasters and patients. But especially should be mentioned the valuable work of our late esteemed Honorary Secretary, Capt. E. Littlehales, R.N., whose retirement two years ago, in consequence of ill health, was the more regretted because it was undoubtedly attributable to his unceasing and excessive devotion to the cause, for upwards of twenty years.
The work is being zealously prosecuted under the present Secretary (Mr. E. J. Mather), by a Chaplain (resident at Gravesend), an Assistant Chaplain, six Lay-Missionaries, and eight Seamen Colporteurs, not merely from the “Pool” to Gravesend, as formerly, but from Putney Bridge to the North Sea fisheriesindeed to the world's end—for who can calculate the influence of the blessing carried forth from these shores by truly Christian sailors or emigrants ? A former chaplain, when questioned by a brother clergyman as to the extent of his parish, very truly replied, “the whole world !"
Services are held by the chaplains on the Lord's-day, and Bible and confirmation classes during the week on board the cadet ship Worcester, and the training frigates Arethusa, Chichester, and Cornwall, whose captains speak in the highest terms of the spiritual results upon their youthful crews. In a recent letter one of the captains remarked : “Never has there been such marked and decided spiritual work on board this ship as during the past two and a half years.” And let us hope the eighty Worcester cadets, and the 170 boys from the other ships, who annually enter the merchant service, carry away in their hearts the precious seed which has been sown, to bring forth fruit for God in their after lives.
The senior chaplain's sphere of visitation has been considerably extended east and west of Gravesend Reach, through the placing of a steam launch on that station, the liberality of friends having enabled the committee to purchase a fine suitable vessel (40 feet long). She has been named the Swan, by way of perpetuating the memory of the old “Thames Church, and in several instances her appearance has attracted the attention of officers and men who, years ago, attended the services conducted on board her larger namesake. For example, the mate of a steamer exclaimed: “Oh! the old Swan! Ah! I used to go on board many years ago to the service when I was apprentice in a collier brig. I shail never forget the old Swan. But I am not converted yet, sir. But my mother, eighty years old, is praying for it every day. I hope I shall
Swan, and he was the means of conversion of those mentioned in the text, aided, no doubt, by Capt. Rowley's frequent visits.
before long." Another incident is more gratifying, and illustrative of the truth of that text already quoted, which so many years ago filled the hearts of the founders of the Thames Church Mission with faith and hope, and which has been the Society's. motto in all its subsequent operations. The missionary stationed at Northfleet boarded a ship for Melbourne and held a meeting with twenty-five passengers, after which one of them, an old Colonist, said: “Twenty years ago I served my apprenticeship in the coal trade, and was often present at the services on board the Swan Thames Church. Of course you remember the old Britannia, and her two apprentices Harry and Billy, with whom you took so much pains? You fetched them to the Swan each time they came up the river, and often spent half the night talking and praying with them after you had taken them back to their own ship. Harry is now one of our best preachers in Melbourne, and Billy is preaching to the blacks in the West Indies."
It is not for us to know the full result of all this holy work and warfare until the sea shall “give up the dead which are in it ;" but God in His mercy, and for our encouragement, allows us to see some of its good effects even now. Many are the pleasing incidents related by various members of the staff at our monthly prayer and committee meetings, some proving, like the one just cited, that the good seed had been sown in the heart by the kind yet forcible preaching of a chaplain, laymissionary, or colporteur. I furnish a few instances from the Journals :
Last Lord's day evening Mr. accompanied me on board the (the captain of which is a Christian) and gave an address in the cabin to about twenty-eight hearers. Most had listened with considerable attention to the old, yet ever new, story of Jesus and His love, when the attention of the speaker was drawn to two men who were evidently there only to mock. One especially showed plainly that he cared for none of these things, and that apparently all the seed had been sown in vain as far as he was concerned. Seeing this, he said, “during my address to-night I have observed with pain some here appearing quite careless about their souls, and I ask you (turning to myself) to spend one hour to-night in prayer to God for these men.” Then, turning to the captain, he made the same request, which was heartily granted, promising to do the same himself.
On returning home, he shut himself up for one hour, crying to God for the scoffers on that ship, and feeling assured that God would, in His own way, hear and answer the prayers. The captain and I did the same.
On the following Tuesday we met again. " I have something good to tell you,” said I. “I prayed as you asked me, and felt very happy in doing so, and this morning being near the ship, I was hailed when passing in the boat by one of the crew. I went on board and there found one of the men in an agony of soul. He had seen me
passing, and had called me to speak to him about Christ. I need hardly tell you how gladly I did it, and before I left the man was a rejoicing believer.” The ship has just sailed for the north, but she has on board of her at least one witness that God hears prayer.
It is deeply interesting to find nine months later the following entry :
Boarded the Was warmly greeted by one of the men, but was obliged to confess that I didn't remember his face. “Oh, but I know you," said he, “and what's better, I know the Lord Jesus as my Saviour.” “Thank God for that,” I exclaimed; “but tell me how it came about." “Simply thus,” he replied. “It has all resulted from the service held on board the last summer, when the preacher asked
you and our skipper to spend an hour praying for us. When I heard him say that, I thought it was quite time I should begin to pray for myself.”
Thus it pleased God to answer the prayers of His servants in the case of two poor fellows who previously had been living " without hope and without God in the world.”
The labours of the colporteurs are important, and have furnished abundant cause for thankfulness, many cases having occurred of conversion to God from the simple reading of His holy Word. For example :
Fourteen months ago I went on board a Norwegian vessel, and persuaded one of the men to buy a Bible. During the voyage the Holy Spirit applied the Word to his heart, and on my visiting her a few days ago the poor sailor caught hold of me and almost kissed me, saying, "I am happy, I am happy; Christ is in my heart; Oh, I am a happy man.” The mate also testified of the great change in this man. “Oh, it was that Bible that you sold me that did it, you said it was a sure guide. I did not read it at first, but threw it into my chest, and it would have been there till now, only when we were becalmed out at sea I read it for want of anything else. Oh, it is my compass now and my chart, and if I had a pound I would give it to your Society; you shall take all the money I have. I will give it, for God has saved my soul." He then gave me two Mexican dollars in proof of his gratitude. A second case :
In visiting the s.s. - a few days ago, I had occasion to speak to the chief officer with reference to the time of sailing, in order that I might get a supply of books for crew and emigrants.
After a little conversation he said, “ I have some recollection of your face." Then thinking for a moment he said, “Oh, it was on board the
you remember bringing sixteen Bibles on board from your Mission ?" I replied I did. “Well," he said, “ those Bibles were made a great blessing on that ship. Mr. —, the chief officer, formed a Bible-class with those books, also held service regularly. And I am glad to tell you that it was the means of my con
I saw you.
version; it turned me right about. I am a happy man now, Sir, and belong to a church at Hackney." I replied, “ You feel then that godliness is profitable unto all things ?" “Oh, yes, I do," he said; “but I have great difficulties to contend with on board, yet the Lord sus
Another great blessing has resulted. My wife also has given her heart to the Saviour, and is a member of the same church. I do bless God that ever you came on board with those Bibles, also that I ever had the company and advice of the then chief officer, Mr.
; he has another ship now and is captain. I know he would like to see you again. If all is well he will be in London in a short time; try and see him. Tell him that his old mate is a happy man serving the Lord, also that he was the chief instrument in God's hands of my conversion." Again :
Got our boat out early, and went up the river before the wind rose too heavy. Spent many hours among the windbound craft. The first I boarded was a barge. The master came out of his cabin with his Testament in his hand. I remarked, “You have begun early with the good book then.” He replied, “Yes, I was just going to see what the Master had provided for me to-day. I cannot read much. I have only learned to read a little this last three months since I was converted. You see this is one of your fourpenny Testaments. I can just spell down a chapter.” This man seemed
much troubled because his mate would not join him in prayer. I had a few encouraging words with the young fellow, and got him below and had a nice little meeting, for which the master was very thankful. Once more:
Held a service in the cabin of the barge. After which the master remarked he went from school into a barge, and could read very well when he went, but never troubled about books for a long time, and lost all his reading. He could scarcely spell a word until he bought a Testament out of our boat, and that Testament had been his schoolmaster ever since. He was thankful to say he could read anything now. He said it was over twenty years since he bought his Testament. He showed it to me. It was well worn, and one of the covers off, but he seemed to value it more than a new one.
From a recent paragraph in the British and Foreign Bible Society's Monthly Reporter it will be seen how warmly the Committee of that great Institution appreciate what has been effected. The Reporter says :-“The Thames Church Mission has grown into a vigorous and important agency for practically obeying the text which it takes as its motto: Cast thy bread upon the waters : for thou shalt find it after many days. It is, in fact, one of those valuable Home Societies which enable the British and Foreign Bible Society to put the Scriptures into wide circulation, just as the great Missionary Societies do abroad."