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In this way the work of reformation was inaugurated. All proceeded in a manner calculated to awaken gratitude and hope, though the life of teachers and taught was not without the usual diversity of life upon the ocean. For example, the vessel was speeding bravely on her way, and the night was sultry. Sunset was followed by intense darkness, soon to be startled by the booming of distant thunder. Anon, the wind rises ; the lightning flashes with magnificent brilliance, while the waves break over the ship with awe-inspiring rapidity and violence. Then in the midst of the general alarm, a ball of fire is seen to strike the vessel as though it would rend her timbers asunder. Several men are stricken, and fall as if lifeless, but are not permanently injured. The fear of the captives intensifies, and the least experienced each minute expect to see the vessel engulfed by the waves which seem eager for their prey. The danger being serious, the alarm becomes general, but it is not more terrible than the deliverance is wonderful. This visitation visibly affects the men, the more so because some distance away another vessel is wrecked with a loss of two hundred convicts.
As the chief teacher, and as one who most frequently addressed the people in a collected body, the surgeon-superintendent drew what instruction he could from attendant circumstances. His heart was soon encouraged by eleven of the men openly professing to have found pardon and peace of soul. Those conversions proved to be but the drops heralding a more gracious shower; for only begin a good work and carry it on faithfully, and the first happy results will surely be followed by something more surprising. The Doctor habitually read the Scriptures to the company, besides delivering many suitable addresses, and he soon learned to become no less astonished than gratified by his continued success. One evening, while the good surgeon was speaking of the forgiveness and restoration of Onesimus, the runaway, a poor invalid, whose life-advantages had been few and ill-improved, lay listening in the ship-hospital, as he subsequently confessed, with feelings of mingled gratitude and incredulity. He lay on his bed revolving the case in his mind:-“What! a runaway slave, that had robbed his master! He converted! He received to Christ! He brought back and pardoned! He saved! A runaway slave saved ! And, why not a convict?” Soon after this mar died in the possession of a good hope.
Another convict who gave satisfactory evidence of having undergone complete change of heart confessed that he had been a backslider. Early converted to God, as he imagined, he entered the visible church by making a profession of religion. Growing careless and indifferent, worldliness at last encompassed his ruin ; for company-keeping, and consequent drinking propensities, not only worked an alteration in the man personally, but straitened him in means, till, to support expensive habits, he pilfered his employer's cash, and so came to be transported. On the convict-ship he gave conclusive tokens of sincere contrition, and started afresh in the Christian life.
What was still better, one after another of the men, in response to the gentle but earnestly effective appeals of their instructor, were permanently reclaimed. Their little histories, though sufficiently diversified, nevertheless carried a monotonous ring,-lustful temptations, low company, drink and gambling, had led on to stealing, and so to ruin.
While this moral transformation was progressing, a deep gloom settled over the ship's company, for the work met with an unexpected, but, happily, a temporary interruption. While making a post mortem examination of a prisoner who died in consequence of a mis-spent life, the indefatigable Christian surgeon pricked his finger, and, inflamed by the poison, the wound brought on an alarming condition of body. The Doctor himself now occupied a bed in the hospital, and seemed to be rapidly nearing the gates of death. But Providence ordered that even this mishap should redoond to the good and consolation of the faithful labourer. Prisoners, who only a short time before were hardened criminals, gathered themselves together, to offer tearful petitions to heaven for the superintendent's recovery.
We will now suppose the vessel to be half-way on her voyage. The gospel has already triumphed over eighty of the reclaimed captives. It is not long before eight more come forward and profess to be touched in their hearts by the truth. Even the most hardened succumb to the Invisible Power which is at work in the vessel. To give an example :
“The prisoner A-_ J_ has been hitherto a source of great grief to me and to the well-disposed among his companions. Nothing seemed to produce permanent impression upon his mind. The effects of the thunder-storm had gradually died away; and although he was much alarmed when the sea fell on board of us, awoke from his sleep in a terrible fright, and came running to me in the hospital, in almost a state of frenzy, apprehensive that the ship was going down under his feet, yet the impression made at that time also was permitted to die away. How true it is, that no permanent or saving change can be effected in the human heart by any cause short of the almighty power of the Holy Spirit. At length, observing the prisoner T- G- one day conducting, in prayer, the devotions of his fellow-prisoners, his mind was forcibly struck, and he could not help secretly exclaiming,
What, T- G- pray! Can he pray? Has T- G come to Jesus, and is he accepted ? Then, why not I ?' said he to himself, and burst into tears. He continued deeply affected ; and throughout the night was in a state of great concern about the safety of his soul. Two or three of the converts to Christianity spent almost the whole night with him, successively or together praying with him, instructing him, and endeavouring to lead him to Christ, who will not upbraid sinners, or ungraciously cast their sins in their face when they draw near in lowly self-abasement to His feet.”
Indeed, the experience of this working Christian surgeon, in this and many other voyages, tended to prove that the Spirit of God will directly bless any efforts of faith that are animated by zeal and devotion. Thus we read in another place: “At a very early hour one morning, W— B-- is aroused by hearing voices in a distant part of the prison. He feels anxious, not knowing what may be going on; leaves his berth, and creeps silently along the side of the ship towards the bows, from whence the sounds proceed. What is his astonishment to see there three of the very worst of the prisoners (one of them a most noted character for his wickedness, and a special cause of grief to the well-disposed) on their knees, withdrawn to that part of the ship where there is the greatest quiet and seclusion from observation, offering up, in short and broken prayers, their deep confessions of sin, and their earnest cries for mercy, pleading the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus. Many of the people, awakened by the sounds, stand round, in silent astonishment, to see these men so engaged. It seems to be indeed the very work of the Spirit of God in their hearts.”
If anything more remarkable were needed to add force and interest to the above, it would be found in the fruitfulness of the men's faith, when no less than one hundred and thirty-two of their number actually passed a resolution, subject to the surgeon-superintendent's approval, of a very unique kind. They determined that each man should lay aside £10 of his earnings, after landing in the colony, for transmission to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was also resolved to beg the Government to accept the money as an expressioa of the senders' abhorrence of past conduct, and as a slight reparation for their wrong doing.
We have already remarked that, on leaving England, many of the prisoners in the “Earl Grey ” were entirely uneducated. We now add that seventy-eight were totally unacquainted with the alphabet, while many were at the hest only lame readers. Before landing at Hobart Town all these could read, with the exception of one man; and, with two exceptions, all were presented with copies of the Scriptures. In his last address to the company, whom he had so singularly benefited, Dr. Browning was able to use these extraordinary words: “There is not among you, to the best of my knowledge, a man or boy who has not declared, in the Divine presence, that he believes himself to be a guiltr, lost sinner, and Jesus to be the only Saviour from sin and from the wrath to come.”
Such a narrative may read like exaggeration ; but the story of Dr. Browning's voyage is simply one more illustration of a hackneyed proverb, “ Truth is stranger than fiction.” May this valuable example prove a stimulant to others; to those who have not yet proved, to the extent of their capacity, what a mighty power they wield when handling the Truth of God, the Word of Life.
(ENTREMETS.-- No. 7.) DURING the war in the Crimea, a Chaplain newly arrived in the
camp, enquired of an English officer how he could best set about his work, in order to do it effectively. The soldier, by way of reply, took his friend to the top of a neighbouring hill, and bade him mark the scene. There were the enemy's lines, here the English were advancing, and yonder were the French earthworks. What energy and determination appeared to be stamped on that marred landscape! How perseveringly did flash answer flash! The boomings and roarings of one side seemed only to draw forth a shower of iron and fire from the other side! All was terribly real! There was no sham! " Sir,” said the officer to the minister of peace, “ You must be in earnest. An earnest man will always make his way. IF WE DON'T CONQUER THE RUSSIANS, THE RUSSIANS WILL CONQUER US!”
Memoir of the late Mr. Benjamin Jabies,
PASTOR OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH, SOUTH STREET,
GREENWICH. BY ONE WHO KNEW HIM WELL, AND ESTEEMED HIM HIGHLY. AT the request of Mrs. Davies, I undertook to compile a short memoir of her A late husband. I complied with this wish partly to gratify a very natural desire on her part, and partly from the belief that to those who knew Mr. Davies, either personally or by name, a biographical sketch of him might be acceptable. My object is not to glorify Benjamin Davies, but to exalt the grace of God which made him what he was. He was born at Dorchester, August 31st, 1833, and died at Lewisham Road, May 11th, 1872, so that his sojourn here was only about thirty-nine years--a short probation, but long enough to enable him to gain an honourable standing among his brethren, and to do a large amount of earnest and well-directed Christian work. Misfortune met him on the very threshold of life. He was only three months old when his father died. His widowed mother, with her fatherless child, then removed to Randwich, near Stroud, where they found a home with his uncle, Mr. Isaac Chapman. The Chapmans-of whom Isaac was the last-were an old Nonconformist family, and were honourably identified with the cause of evangelical religion during several generations. George Whitfield used to preach in the old house, and sometimes in the garden at Ransford. Mrs. Davies has in her possession an old arm-chair wbich the great evangelist was in the habit of using as his pulpit when he preached in the village.
Benjamin Davies was barely six years old when a second blow, and much heavier than the first, fell upon him in the death of his mother. What were his trials, and what his mercies, during the long years of helpless orphanage that followed his bereavement, it is not my purpose to enquire. Little Ben. jamin remained with his uncle Chapman, who doubtless did a good part by the lad; but who can fill the gap made by a mother's death? What smile, what voice, what caresses, what attentions can equal hers? When his father died he was too young to realise the loss he had sustained ; but to a boy of six his mother was everything, and her death, even at that early age, was a life-sorrow to a sensitive and delicate child. Such was the shadow that fell on the subject of this sketch. But the Lord took him up. In his case, as in that of every orphan since the world began, Jehovah has shown himself to be the “Father of the fatherless." Two years after his mother's death he was taken by his relatives to reside with them at Cheltenham. Here he attended the Sunday School connected with Dr. Brown's chapel, and it was under the influence of godly and loving teachers that he was led to consecrate himself to Christ. This was before he had attained the age of sixteen. No details exist of his early Christian experience—the alternate light and gloom, sorrow and gladness, conflicts and victories, which resulted in peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The change was gradual, but it was real and decided. His hand once on the plough, he never looked back. By the grace of God he held fast that which he had, and no man took his crown.
When Benjamin Davies was a youth, the good old-fashioned custom of holding early Sunday morning prayer-meetings was much more common than it is now. The seven o'clock prayer-meeting was an institution, and presented A great attraction to young converts, and especially during the period of first Jove. At these quiet Christian gatherings, the beaming face of young Davies
as always seen ; and he not only took part in the devotions, but in the absence of elder brethren sometimes conducted the service. Out of the fulness of This heart, he tried to speak for Jesus in the outlying villages ; and often received much encouragement from his rustic hearers.
For a boy in his position young Davies received a fair education, and that he appreciated his advantages, and turned them to good account, is evident from the fine, bold, flowing hand that he wrote. Having served an apprenticeship to the drapery business, he took a situation in London, but the delicate state of his health obliged him to leave it, and he went into a house of business in Birmingham, where he had the privilege of attending the ministry of the famous John Augell James. His next removal was to Wolverhampton, and it was while residing in that town that he was baptised at Willenhall, by Mr. Cozens, afterwards of Rehoboth Chapel, Shadwell, London. When a little over twenty years of age, he married the lady who now mourns her heavy loss. Shortly after their union they returned to Birmingham, where Mr. Davies took a clerkship in a wholesale house of business. Round about the great murky town-at Dudley, and in the “ Black Country," he preached Christ with characteristic zeal, and much acceptance. Having been urged to devote himself wholly to the Christian ministry, he obtained an introduction to the Baptist church in Wellesley-street, Arbor-square, London; but the visit did not lead to a permanent engagement. Mr. Davies next supplied a church at South Chard, in Somersetshire ; and having received a cordial invitation to the pastorate, he settled there in Oct., 1854. At the end of about eighteen months his connection with the church closed; and he next took charge of the church in Bethel Chapel, Linslade, near Leighton Buzzard, where he wrought with great earnestness and considerable success :ill the end of February, 1858. The fact that he had accepted and resigned two pastorates in less than four years was not encouraging; and, to outside observers, gave but feeble promise for the future. But Mr. Davies was young-only in his twenty-fifth year when he left Leighton Buzzard. His literary advantages had been few, and his range of theological reading limited; while his frequent public engagements left him but little time for close and systematic study. As a rule, public teachers who have had no previous opportunities of storing knowledge for future use. but live, as it were, week by week from hand to mouth, find the effort to keep up the attention and interest of their hearers most difficult and distressing. Men who possess originality of mind, and a luxuriant imagination, will, by constant application, surmount the disadvantages which often prove too strong for men of slender gifts and meagre attainments.
Aspirants to the Christian Ministry do well to bear in mind, that while a good presence, a pleasant voice, a ready utterance, a loving heart, and a fiery earnestness, are excellent endowments, and will do them good service for a time, there must be something behind, if they are to maintain their position in the same place for a number of years together. Now, the fourteen years of brave and manly struggle through which Benjamin Daries afterwards passed at Greenwich, prove that his removal from Chard and Leighton arose neither from mental indolence nor fickleness of character. He cherished the honourable ambition of becoming " a workman that needeth not to be ashamed ;” and on his settlement at Greenwich, in 1858, as Pastor of the Church in Bridge-street, he found, not only a wider field of usefulness, but an opportunity for raising his qualifications for the good work to which he had devoted his life. Mr. Spurgeon's College was then in its infancy, and Mr. Davies sought and obtained from its Founder just the assistance which he required. Under the able direction of the Tutor, Mr. Rogers, he went through a two years' course, the expense being generously borne by Mr. Spurgeon. I have before me a manuscript written by Mr. Davies, in which he explains the cause of his separation from the church at Bridge-street, and removal to the Lecture Hall:-"In the early, part of 1858 I accepted the pastorate, and laboured with a good measure of success till the close of the year. A change then took place in my sentiments, which eventually led to my resignation of the pastorate, and to the formation of a new church. The change had reference to the way in which the gosp. should be presented to sinners. It had been my custom to warn them of the danger; but I felt that their utter inability to perform any spiritual